• In the case of Hanchett Stamford v ag 2009 Ch 173, it was found that the last surviving member of an unincorporated association was entitled to its assets, free from any restrictions imposed by the rules of the association.

Facts of the Case

  • C south a declaration that the work and objects of an unincorporated association (L) were charitable.
  • C also sought to appoint herself and her solicitor trustees of the funds of L with discretion to select a charity with similar objects to L to receive those funds.
  • L was founded in 1914.
  • The only extant evidence of the objects of L showed that it sought “To make illegal performance by animals by cruelty in the “training” etc.”. and to “make unprofitable the infliction of cruelty in the production of animal films shown on the British screen”.
  • The only two living members of L were C and her husband before his death in 2006.
  • They agreed that it would be best if L’s assets were transferred to the selected charity.
  • The court was therefore required to determine whether L was a charity and if not, who those assets belonged to. 

Issues in Hanchett Stamford v ag 2009 Ch 173

  • Could L be declared as non-charitable and therefore could C be entitled to the assets free of restriction?

Held by High Court

  • Judgment for claimant in part.
  • L not charitable

Lewinson J

  • It was held that L was not and never was a charity. One of its significant purposes was to change the law and where that was a purpose of a trust, the courts had refused to recognise that trust as charitable.
  • The Charities Act 2006 did not change the principle that a trust could not be charitable if one of its objects or purpose was to change the law.
  • Whilst the Animal Welfare Act 2006 contained previsions which created offences of causing distress to animals, it did not go so far as to prohibit performing animals which was one of L’s purposes.
  • “Ms Maclennan did suggest that the League might have spontaneously dissolved before Mr Hanchett−Stamford’s death. However, although his activities on the League’s behalf had dwindled before his death they did not stop completely. In my judgment the League did not dissolve spontaneously before his death. I consider that the League ceased to exist upon his death in January 2006, when its membership fell below two. Since Mrs Hanchett−Stamford is the sole surviving member of the League, she is, in my judgment, entitled to its assets. She is therefore entitled to be registered as proprietor of Sid Abbey and as shareholder of the shares now held in the League’s name. Her entitlement is free from any restrictions imposed by the rules of the League, which must have ceased to bind on the death of her husband. It follows that she is free, if she so chooses, to give all the former assets of the League to the Born Free Foundation. “ pg. 17 pp50