18 May 2017

An Everyday Story of Country Folk

by Miranda Marshall, Director, Hayes + Storr

After the last two months’ articles about probate court fee increases akin to a ‘death tax’ I am returning to the much safer territory of a good old family feud about inheritances.

Whatever intellectual spin I might put on it, such rifts and battles have a soap opera quality about them.

By any measure, the case of Ashcroft v Webster (2017) is extreme.

An Extended Civil Restraint Order (ECRO) made against Rupert Jolyon St. John Webster two years ago has been renewed for a further two years, in order to deter his repeated litigation against other members of his family over a dispute about his late grandparents’ estates.

The legal fees in the case have cost Rupert his house, office and agricultural business; but still, he is determined to battle on, even though his case is without merit.

Rupert’s original claim was dismissed in 2013 as it was groundless. It was his parents’ deaths in 2006 and 2007 which triggered the family dispute. Rupert alleged that his grandparents had promised to leave the farmhouse (named The Priory) to Rupert’s father and so, therefore, Rupert thought that it should now be his, by right of succession. The High Court dismissed his claim but Rupert continued his fight, and on three separate times sought leave to appeal, all of which were dismissed.

Back in 2015, under the ECRO, a judge issued an injunction forbidding Rupert to enter The Priory; to interfere with or prevent the marketing or sale of it; to publish or use words stating that he had to give permission for its sale or that he had any share in The Priory.

In late April 2017, upon application by the executors, another judge held that Rupert’s behaviour since the 2015 ECRO showed that he will stop at nothing and so renewed the ECRO for another two years. The reasons given were that there is a serious risk to the executors, to the people who have recently bought the house from the estate, and generally to the administration of public justice. Part of the judge’s thinking was that Rupert’s persistent claims are imposing burdens on the stretched court system, to the disadvantage of other court users.

This article aims to supply general information, but it is not intended to constitute advice. Every effort is made to ensure that the law referred to is correct at the date of publication and to avoid any statement which may mislead. However, no duty of care is assumed to any person and no liability is accepted for any omission or inaccuracy. Always seek our specific advice.

If you would like further advice on this matter please contact Miranda on 01328 710210. For legal advice on any other matter call 01328 863231 or email law@hayes-storr.com.

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