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An unincorporated association is not a legal entity and so, in theory at least, cannot sue or be sued in its own name. This was the position set out in London Association for Protection of Trade v Greenlands Limited.
The legal position was considered in some detail in Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Oxford v Broughton. This case involved a campaign by the Animal Liberation Front and associated organisations. The normal way forward would be to obtain a representation order whereby a named member or members or officers of the association would be made parties ‘on behalf of the members of the association’. However, it may not be possible to seek and obtain such a representation order before the limitation period expires and therefore, the potential claimant may wish to know whether it can join the association in its own name. As set out in University of Oxford, there have been several cases where this has in fact happened, ie where an order has been made against the association.
In a number of first instance decisions which have been put before the court, orders have been made against protest groups which have been said to be unincorporated associations. These include Huntingdon Life Sciences v Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (Shac
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