The claimants/applicants brought a part 8 claim, as beneficiaries of a trust of land in Glamorgan known as the Tamplin trust, for disclosure of documents and information by the defendant/respondent trustees. This claim was founded on the basis that the trustees owe a duty to account to the beneficiaries for their stewardship of the trust assets. They also made an application for pre-action disclosure; the court gave judgment on both matters.
The defendants opposed both the claim and the application on a number of grounds. Firstly, the beneficiaries had already received sufficient information, and the requests were no more than a fishing expedition. Secondly, the disclosure may reveal the reasons behind the trustees’ decisions and thereby infringe the principles laid down in Re Londonderry’s Settlement. This applied to both administrative and dispositive decisions. Thirdly, only a minority of the beneficiaries sought disclosure, therefore they were not entitled to it – as opposed to a case where all the beneficiaries sought disclosure, in which case the rule in Saunders v Vautier.
Counsel for the defendants also argued that the court should not interfere with the decisions of the trustees unless there were substantial grounds which excited its suspicion. The court was entitled to review the trustees’ decisions on Wednesbury grounds, but not to determine that the decisions were wrong.
The claimants submitted that there was no need for any threshold to be passed for the court’s supervisory jurisdiction to be invoked regarding disclosure. These were documents which the beneficiaries were properly entitled to, and it would not cause any mischief to disclose them. Legal professional privilege was not applicable in this case, nor was any public law test of rationality. The Londonderry principles applied to dispositive powers only.
- 1)All of the defendants’ contentions were rejected, and the claim therefore succeeded.
- 2)There was no authority that information had to be sought by all beneficiaries collectively under the rule in Saunders v Vautier.
- 3)It was very clear that the Londonderry principle applies to dispositive powers only, not least from the judgments in that case.
- 4)There was no requirement for a threshold to be passed before the court will be entitled to interfere with a trustee’s decision to refuse disclosure. However, if suspicious circumstances were required, then they were amply found on the evidence in this case.
- 5)The disclosure hitherto given by the defendants had been inadequate. The defendants had taken an extreme and indefensible approach to disclosure – first by denying the claimants were beneficiaries at all, and then by putting forward a number of hopeless arguments. The judge therefore ordered disclosure of the majority of the documents and information sought by the beneficiaries.
- 6)The application for pre-action disclosure was adjourned generally, pending further consideration of the effects of the claim succeeding. In principle, the applicants were entitled to pre-action disclosure of documents which would be part of standard disclosure if substantive proceedings were issued.