High Court

Publication Date01 Aug 1996
SubjectHigh Court
Re Sdeceased
Section 1(1) of the Forfeiture Act 1982 provides that the 'forfeiture rule'
means a rule of public policy which in certain circumstances precludes a
person who has unlawfully killed another from acquiring any benefit in
consequence of the killing. Re Sdeceased
1 WLR 235 was concerned
with consequences of the application of the forfeiture rule. There, a
husband killed his wife and, when charged with murder, pleaded guilty to
manslaughter on the ground of diminished responsibility and, on
conviction of that offence, was made the subject of orders under s 37 and
s 41 of the Mental Health Act
By reason of s 1(1) of the Forfeiture
he became subject to a forfeiture order. That rule is applied, by
s 2(4), to any beneficial interest in property which, apart from the
forfeiture rule, he would have acquired as a result of the death of the
deceased, being property which, before the death, was held in trust for
any person. In this case, the husband and wife had entered into a joint life
insurance endowment policy, under which the lives assured were those of
the husband and wifeand on the death of the first to die the sum assured
would be paid to the survivor.
was conceded by the husband that,
because of the violent nature of his attack upon his wife,he was disentitled
to any benefit he would otherwise have received from her death: see Re H
1 FLR 441. This meant that, on her having died intestate,
her estate passed to her son, not her husband. The question raised by an
application to the High Court was whether the benefit of the life insurance
policy was still payable and, if so, to whom? The consequences of the
forfeiture rule would, in the absence of any claim which could be made by
a person other than the husband, be that the insurance company would
not be liable to
the sum assured. While it is not suggested that
such a consequence would mean that, in cases of joint policies, the officers
of insurance companies would be tempted to encourage the policy-holders
to murder each other, it is none-the-Iess an odd result of the operation of
the criminal law that an insurance company might receive such a windfall
under the Forfeiture Act
In this case, the husband sought to have
the operation of the forfeiture rule modified in such a way as to require
the company to give effect to any instructions from his solicitors that the
proceeds of the policy be paid to two trustees (his solicitor and his
brother) in trust for the benefit of his son.
The brother, as the son's next friend, made the application to the High
Court in terms which made the insurance company the defendant, but the
company did not oppose the application and stated that it would abide by
any decision made by the court upon it. The application was made under
s 2 of the
Act, which provides that where the forfeiture rule applies
to any property under s 2(4) (above), the court may make an order

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