Gill v RSPCA: A Round-Up

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2009_0525derbyshiremay0900122Still no sign of the Gill v RSPCA judgment on Bailii (or indeed on any of the subscription sites). This may be because the RSPCA has made it clear that it intends to appeal, a decision which has not gone down well either with Dr Gill (no surprise there) or within the wider third sector. Rosie Millard wrote an interesting colour piece in The Times a couple of weeks ago which made it clear that the main issues were: proprietary estoppel; testamentary capacity; want of knowledge and approval; and/or possibly the undue influence of Mr Gill Senior over his wife. It appears that the diagnosis of Mrs Gill was that she suffered from severe anxiety, I suspect an anxiety disorder of some kind. This is the first time as far as I am aware that severe anxiety has been found to vitiate independence of mind when making a will, so it would be most interesting to read the judgement. Expert evidence was called (and accepted) from Professor Robert Howard.

Dr Gill’s opinion of the RSPCA was described in the article as “less than charitable”, and things have not improved much since. The charity appears to be seeking part of its costs either from Dr Gill or the estate: Dr Gill’s lawyer says that they are looking to Dr Gill for a contribution to their costs, so presumably the RSPCA was successful on at least one of the issues. An article in The Lawyer noted that when the trial went on for longer than the estimated two weeks, Mishcon de Reya agreed a CFA with Dr Gill to allow her to continue.

Meantime, a war of words has broken out between the RSPCA and Dr Gill about how the litigation was conducted (see here) and in particular whether reasonable offers were made in the course of trial preparation.

Some third sector commentators wonder if the Society’s intention to pursue the case to appeal might be a public relations mistake: as Rosie Millard commented, it could end up looking less like a saviour to bunny rabbits and more like a fighting dog. In Up terms, not Dug but Alpha (and with his scary voice). From the comments I’ve seen on the web, although the majority of contributors support Dr Gill and are critical of the RSPCA, there is a sizeable minority — maybe one-third or so — who defend Mr Gill’s right to leave his money to charity if he wanted to (although they are less forthright about the RSPCA’s approach to the litigation).