Hanchett-Stamford v Attorney General and Others

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
Judgment Date27 February 2008
Neutral Citation[2008] EWHC 330 (Ch)
Docket NumberCase No: 7BS30827
CourtChancery Division
Date27 February 2008
Kathleen Desmonde Hanchett-Stamford
(1) H.M. Attorney-General
(2) Dr. William Johnston Jordan
Barclays Bank Trust Company Limited

[2008] EWHC 330 (Ch)


The Honourable Mr Justice Lewison

Case No: 7BS30827




The Guildhall Court,

Small Street,


Mrs. Alison Maclennan (instructed by Shirley May Yard) for the Claimant.

Mr. Hugh Sims (instructed by Treasury Solicitors) for the First Defendant.

The Second Defendant did not attend and was not represented.

Mr. Gwilym Harbottle (instructed by Dickinson Dees LLP) for the Intervener.

Hearing dates: 20 th February 2008

Approved Judgment

I direct that pursuant to CPR PD 39A para 6.1 no official shorthand note shall be taken of this Judgment and that copies of this version as handed down may be treated as authentic.


Mr. Justice Lewison:

Introduction and history 2

The issues 5

Is the League a charity? 5

To whom do the assets of the League belong? 9

The payment to the Captive Animals Protection Trust 16

Mrs Hanchett-Stamford's fitness 16

Result 17

Introduction and history


The Performing and Captive Animals Defence League (“the League”) was founded by Mrs Albert Bradshaw and Mr Ernest Bell in 1914. Between 1914 and 1934 it had an adopted constitution; but that has been lost. During that period its affairs were managed by an executive committee. However, at the annual general meeting in 1934 the members decided to dispense with the executive committee and to appoint a Director of the League with power to appoint an advisory committee. At that time the Director was Captain Edmund T MacMichael. It is by no means clear that the AGM also decided to dispense with the constitution.


The only extant evidence of the objects of the League is a statement in a booklet produced in 196That booklet states the aims and objects of the League in the following terms:

“The primary objects of the League are the realisation of its vital policies, and Membership of the League postulates a faithful adherence to them, unless at any time any Member, or would-be Member, wishes to strengthen them (if possible) in which case notice must be given in writing to the Secretary.

1. PERFORMING ANIMALS. – THE PERFORMING ANIMALS (PREVENTION OF CRUELTY) BILL. “To make illegal performances by animals involving cruelty in the “training” etc., with just compensation to the trade”. ( The League's offer of £1,000 to any person who, under its constant supervision, succeeds in training any untrained animal to perform any circus trick on demand, and without cruelty, still remains unclaimed. The League maintains that the trade has, by failing to answer the above nearly thirty-year-old challenge, PUBLICLY ACKNOWLEDGED the impossibility of training any kind of performing animal without cruelty contrary to law. THIS MEANS THAT EVERY PERFORMING ANIMAL SHOW IS IN FACT ILLEGAL.)

2. ANIMAL FILMS. – THE PROTECTION OF ANIMALS (CINEMATOGRAPH BILL), which contains the only feasible and indeed possible policy to make unprofitable the infliction of cruelty in the production of animal films shown on the British screen, whether of foreign manufacture or not.”


The booklet goes on to say:

IMPORTANT. –Both the above Bills do in actual fact seek to ENFORCE EXISTING LAW, namely the protection of Animals Act, 1911, under which it is already illegal to cruelly Beat, Ill-treat, Torture, Infuriate, Terrify or Cause Unnecessary Suffering to any animal – all of which illegalities are part and parcel of performing animals “training” and the production of Cruel Films; and until these Bills are placed on the Statute Book, the perpetrators of these criminal offences will continue to violate existing law IN THE SECRECY OF THE “TRAINING” DEN AND THE FILM STUDIO, and without any risk of prosecution by the authorities concerned.”


Among the activities to which the booklet refers are: the prevention of the establishment of municipal zoos; and the prevention of the introduction into the United Kingdom of bullfights and rodeos. It also urges members to protest about television programmes depicting cruelty to animals.


Although it appears that there has never been any attempt to register the League as a charity, the question whether it had charitable status was considered by the Inland Revenue in 1949. In the light of the then recent decision of the House of Lords in National Anti-Vivisection Society v IRC [1948] AC 31 they decided that the principal objects of the League were to change the law and hence that it did not have charitable status. The League did not appeal against that decision.


According to the 1962 booklet the League had two categories of member: life members and annual members. In 1962 there were approximately 250 members. Any excess of income over expenditure was invested. Gifts and legacies were placed directly into the investment fund. Mr and Mrs Hanchett-Stamford joined the League in the mid-1960s as life members. During his lifetime Mr Hanchett-Stamford was active in persuading local authorities not to let land to travelling circuses. He worked with Dr Bill Jordan, the chief vet of the RSPCA, in educating people about how to care for animals. However, towards the end of the 1970s the League became much less active. The number of travelling circuses declined; and the League did less campaigning about zoos. Although there appears to have been a Treasurer of the League, Mr Hanchett-Stamford had effective control over the League's assets, which continued to accumulate. In the early 1990s it was decided to buy a property. This turned out to be Sid Abbey, West Sid Road, Sidmouth, Devon. Title to the property is registered in the names of Mr Hanchett-Stanford and a Mr Hervey “as Trustees for the Performing and Captive Animals Defence League”. Mr Hervey was also a member of the League. Both of the registered proprietors are dead. The property is the principal wing of a nineteenth century Gothic house. It contains six bedrooms, three reception rooms and the usual offices, together with extensive grounds and a swimming pool. A recent valuation values the property at £675,000. Until her recent removal to a nursing home in Sidmouth, where the court sat to take her evidence, Mrs Hanchett-Stamford lived there. Mrs Hanchett-Stamford says that the property was bought for use as offices and as an investment. In addition to the property at Sid Abbey, the League also owns a portfolio of stocks and shares. This was most recently valued at £1.77 million. When the building was bought there was a small office staff, who dealt with incoming letters and inquiries, often from the press. However, that activity dwindled over the years. The League stopped maintaining membership records in the early 1990s. As he got older Mr Hanchett-Stamford's activities also dwindled. However, he continued to deal with correspondence and inquiries until his death. Mr Redwood, an accountant who prepared the League's tax returns from 2003 onwards, discussed the position of the League with Mr Hanchett-Stamford. He advised Mr Hanchett-Stamford that efforts should be made to ensure that the League moved towards winding up. They were no more than discussions, and Mr Redwood made it clear that specialist advice would need to be taken. Mr and Mrs Hanchett-Stamford discussed the matter, and concluded that it would be best if the League's assets were transferred to an active charity promoting animal welfare. They went through many charities, and eventually agreed that the Born Free Foundation would be a suitable recipient. On Mr Hanchett-Stamford's instructions Mr Redwood prepared tax returns for the League, which continued to submit them.


Mr Hanchett-Stanford died in January 2006; and Mrs Hanchett-Stanford now wishes to give all the assets of the League to the Born Free Foundation. Whether or not she is legally obliged to do so, she feels morally obliged to do so and to respect her late husband's wishes. She has no desire to profit personally from the League's assets. She has issued proceedings seeking the following relief:

i) An order that the work and objects of the Performing and Captive Animals Defence League are charitable and

ii) An order appointing herself and her solicitor Anne Bevan as trustees of the funds of the League with discretion to select a charity with similar objects to the League to receive those funds.


The Attorney-General was the only named Defendant to the proceedings. However, on 5th February 2008 Dr William Jordan applied to become a party to the proceedings and was joined by Court order of HHJ McCahill on the 15th February 2008 as an additional Defendant. Dr Jordan claimed to be a life member of the League, although he said that he had not had any communication from the League since the 1970s. He came forward in response to a series of advertisements seeking to identify members of the League. Ms Bevan placed advertisements in The London Evening Standard, the Independent, the Guardian, the Manchester Evening News, the Glasgow Herald, the Scotsman, the Western Mail and the Yorkshire Post. In addition she advertised in the London Gazette. All these advertisements were placed in January 2007. She also made other inquiries of firms of solicitors who had been involved in the conveyancing of Sid Abbey and who acted in the administration of Mr Hervey's estate. Dr Jordan was the only person who came forward; although another organisation, called the Captive Animals Protection Trust, claims that several of its members are or were members or supporters of the League. According to Mrs Hanchett-Stamford, whose evidence I accept, the Captive Animals Protection Trust was a breakaway organisation set up many years ago by former members of the League who fell out with Captain...

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