Practice and Procedure


PUBLISHED April 29, 2003

Relief from forfeiture under the Forfeiture Act 1982 was not granted to a beneficiary who had been convicted of the manslaughter of the deceased where, having regard to the conduct of the claimant and all other material circumstances, the justice of the case did not require it.Application by the claimant ('C') for relief from forfeiture under the Forfeiture Act 1982. C killed the deceased ('M') and was tried for murder but acquitted of that offence and following psychiatric evidence was convicted on his own plea of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. C was the residuary beneficiary of M's estate under M's will. The estate included M's property, where C had lived with M during certain periods in a homosexual relationship. At the time of his death, M was suffering from dementia and short-term memory loss due to his advanced age. C was prone to depression, anxiety and heavy drinking. C strangled M after an argument and it was accepted at his trial that at the time he was suffering from an abnormality of mind due to an inherent cause (his illness) that had substantially impaired his actions, causing him to 'snap' and kill M in a fit of anger. C had spent large amounts of M's money for his own benefit and no formal medical care was provided for M, even though M had ample means to afford it. The defendants were members of M's family, some of whom would be entitled on M's intestacy, and they opposed the application.HELD: (1) Section 2(2) of the Act provided that the court shall not grant relief unless it was satisfied that, having regard to the conduct of the offender and the deceased and to such other circumstances as appear to be material, the justice of the case required the forfeiture rule to be modified. (2) C had taken advantage of an elderly and ill man and abused the trust that M had placed in him. It must have been clear to C that M was vulnerable and needed proper care, but C failed to provide such care and continued to live with M for his own interests. (3) Although C's mental condition may have reduced his responsibility for the actual killing, it did not remove his responsibility for allowing the situation to arise, and C remained morally culpable to some extent, a fact recognised in the sentence given to him which was at the upper end of the sentencing guidelines. It was also clear from the manslaughter verdict that C's responsibility for M's death had not been extinguished but merely reduced. (4) The Act did not automatically disapply the forfeiture rule in all cases of manslaughter involving diminished responsibility. M had been killed by someone whom he had befriended and in whom he had placed his trust, and in all the circumstances this was not a case where justice required relief from forfeiture to be granted.Application dismissed.

[2003] EWHC 796 (Ch)