Challen v Challen & anor [2020] WTLR 859

WTLR Issue: Autumn 2020 #180






C and Richard Challen (the deceased) were in a relationship for 40 years and had two children (the defendants). Throughout that period the deceased subjected C to sustained coercive control, leaving her in an abnormal psychiatric state. On 15 August 2010 C killed the deceased with a hammer and was convicted of his murder in 2011. In February 2019 that conviction was quashed and the matter remitted for a retrial, and in June 2019 C was convicted upon a guilty plea of manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility. Under the common law ‘forfeiture rule’ C was precluded from benefiting from the deceased’s estate.

C applied for relief under the Forfeiture Act 1982, s2, subsection (3) of which provides that any application must be brought within three months of conviction. The defendants did not appear and were not represented. HMRC was served with the applications but did not seek to be joined. C undertook not to seek to recover any sums from the beneficiaries of the deceased’s estate, the defendants.

The issues to be determined were:

  1. (1) Was the application in time?
  2. (2) What was the test to be applied?
  3. (3) Should the application be granted on the facts?


The application was in time. The time-limit in s2(3) of the Act runs from the date on which the applicant is formally convicted of an offence to which the Act can have effect; C’s conviction for murder was not such a conviction. Time started to run from the date of sentence, not the date of C’s guilty plea – Re Land [2006] WTLR 1447 ChD not followed.

In deciding whether to exercise its discretion under s2 of the Act, the court must decide whether, taking all relevant circumstances into account, it was right to relieve the applicant of the consequences of the rule. The paramount consideration is whether the culpability of the criminal conduct was such as to justify the application of the rule at all. Other factors include the relationship between the parties, the degree of moral culpability, the intentions of the deceased, the size of the estate, the financial position of the offender and the moral claims of those who would take upon the application of the rule – Dunbar v Plant [1998] explained and followed.

C would be relieved of the effects of the rule. At the time of the killing C was suffering from psychiatric illness by reason of coercive control, sufficient to reduce her offence from murder to manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility. This is now recognised as a criminal offence in its own right. The deceased contributed to his own death. The effect of disapplying the rule would be to relieve the deceased’s estate of inheritance tax, but would have no other effect on the beneficiaries.

JUDGMENT HHJ PAUL MATTHEWS: Introduction [1] This is my judgment on a claim made by the claimant by claim form under CPR Part 8, issued on 6 September 2019, for relief from the so-called ‘forfeiture rule’ (preventing a person who is convicted of killing a person from inheriting any of the deceased’s estate) under the …
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Counsel Details

Leslie Blohm QC (St Johns Chambers, 101 Victoria St, Redcliffe, Avon, Bristol BS1 6PU, tel 0117 923 4740, email, instructed by Stephens Scown LLP (Curzon House, Southernhay W, Exeter EX1 1RS, tel 01392 210700, email for the claimant.

The defendants did not appear and were not represented.

Cases Referenced

Legislation Referenced

  • Criminal Law Act 1967, s6
  • Forfeiture Act 1982, s2-4