RSPCA faces potential £1m legal bill in legacy case

Judge says its "unreasonable" behaviour means it should bear most of the costs

The RSPCA faces a massive legal bill after a judge ruled it must pay the other side's costs in its failed court battle over a £2m legacy.

The charity was told on Friday that it will have to pay most of the costs, which could reach £1m, in its dispute with university lecturer Christine Gill.

In October, the court overturned her mother's will, which left a 287-acre farm to the RSPCA and nothing to Gill .

Judge James Allen ruled at Leeds Crown Court that the charity will be liable for much of Gill's £900,000 legal bill, although he has not yet revealed the precise amount.

A written judgement specifying how much the RSPCA will have to pay is expected later this week.

The charity will also have to pay its own £400,000 costs.

The judge said that the charity showed "a lack of enthusiasm" for resolving the dispute out of court despite several offers of settlement and mediation from Gill.

He said that the RSPCA's behaviour had been "unreasonable to such a degree" that the charity would have to pay the majority of the costs.

The charity will not have to pay some of Gill's pre-trial costs, the judge ruled.

In a statement released through her solicitor, Gill said it was still a mystery to her that the RSPCA did not try to contact her before the trial. "After last October's judgment, the RSPCA attempted to justify its stance by saying it was obliged under charity law to defend the claim to trial, that it was a compassionate organisation and that I was the barrier to settlement," she said. "This decision sets the record straight."

An RSPCA spokesman said the charity would not comment on the costs until the final figure was determined.

However, he said the charity was pleased that some costs were to come out of the estate.

He said: "We are still looking at appealing the decision but we have to fully consider the costs judgement handed down and are therefore not in a position to comment further at this time."


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