RSPCA begins appeal against High Court ruling on legacy

Animal charity says it is obliged to try to uphold the will of Christine Gill's mother, who left her farm to the organisation

RSPCA helps to rescue cats
RSPCA helps to rescue cats

The RSPCA has launched an appeal against a High Court ruling over a legacy worth more than £2m.

Christine Gill won a long court battle against the charity in October 2009 in a case concering her parents’ 287-acre North Yorkshire farm, which was left to the RSPCA in her mother’s will.

The court ruled that Gill’s father had coerced her mother into leaving everything in the will to the charity before he died in 1999.

In a statement outside court after the hearing began yesterday, the RSPCA said it had an obligation to seek to uphold the wishes of those who decide to include the charity in their wills.

"As a charitable organisation, it is restricted by charity law in its ability to simply disclaim the legacy Mrs Gill left," said the statement. "The RSPCA, like other national charities, relies heavily on legacy income to further its charitable objectives."

The charity said that people would be put off leaving bequests to charity if they felt the organisations would back down at the first sign of a legal challenge.

A number of other charities and umbrella bodies have expressed concerns about the implications of the case for the whole sector.

A statement signed by 11 organisations, including the RSPB, the Charities Aid Foundation and the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, called on the matter to be finally settled.

"It is unacceptable for charity trustees to be caught between the legal duty to secure assets to which the charity is entitled and the threat of huge legal costs being imposed for attempting to do so," said the statement.

"It is crucial that this matter is finally settled, one way or the other, so that charities can be more certain of the legal landscape, and can plan accordingly."

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