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Report No. 110

III. Common Law

49.9. Common law.-

There is enough authority in common law for such a bar. In England, as early as 1892,1 it was laid down that murder forfeits all benefits under the will of his victim. In 1914, this principle was extended from murder to man slaughter.2 In regard to intestacy, it was decided in 1935 that the same rule of public policy applies.3

1. (a) Cleaver v. Mutual Reserve Fund Life Association, (1892) 1 QB 147 (CA).

(b) Beresford, 1938 AC 586.

2. Hall (in re:), (1914) Probate 1.

3. Sigawarth (in re:), 1935 Ch 89.

49.10. The general rule1 in England is that a person may not derive a benefit resulting from his own crime.2

The principle that no criminal can retain a benefit which accrues to him from crime3 is now well accepted.4-5

The English cases all deal with direct inheritance of the murderer from the victim. The problem of indirect inheritance does not seem to have arisen in England.6

1. Halsbury's, 3rd Edn., Vol. 1, p. 10, para. 15.

2. (a) Beresford v. Royal Insurance Co. Ltd., (1936) 2 All LR 1052; revsd. CA (1937) 2 All ER 243; affd. HL, (1938) 2 All ER 602: 1938 AC 586.

(b) Cleaver v. Mutual Reserve Fund Life Assn., (1892) 1 QB 147 (CA).

(c) Estate of Crippen (in re:), 1911 Probate P 108: (1911-13) All ER 207.

3. St. Joint Shipping Corporation v. Joseph Bank Ltd., (1957) 1 QB 267 (292), per Devlin, J.

4. Cf. Beresford's Case, (1937) 2 KB 197 (220), Cointat v. Myham & Sons, (1913) 2 KB 220; Manes v. Philip Trant & Sons Ltd., (1954) 1 QB 29 (39-40), per Denning, L.J.

5. See also Haseldine v. Hosken, (1933) 1 KB 822; Askey v. Golden Wine Co., (194) 2 All ER 35.

6. See article by Professor Hahloin in 16 Modem Law Review 100.

49.11. Public Policy.-

Some questions of proof have arisen1 in England, but we are not, in the Succession Act, concerned with them. What requires to be emphasised is that the rule barring the murderer from succession is one of public policy, and has now been accepted in most countries. As Vaisey J. stated,2 "the rule bused on public policy is that no person is allowed to take any benefit arising out of a death brought about by the agency of that person acting felonious, whether it be a case of murder or of manslaughter."

1. See note by Magary in 67 Law Quarterly Review 309.

2. Callaway (in re:), 1956 All LR 451 (452) (Vaisey, J.) noted on in (1956) 72 LQR 475.

The Indian Succession Act, 1925 Back

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