In re Scarisbrick’s Will Trusts, Cockshott v Public Trustee: CA 1951

Possible Charity for poor persons within an area
The court was asked whether a trusts for poor persons within a restricted category, the testator’s descendants, not meeting the usual requirement that the benefits be available to a wider section of the community, may be held charitable.
Held: Such a trust could be charitable.
The dividing line between a charitable trust and a private trust ‘depended on whether as a matter of construction the gift was for the relief of poverty amongst a particular description of poor people [charitable] or was merely a gift to particular poor persons, the relief of poverty among them being the motive of the gift [private]’ The fact that the gift took the form of a perpetual trust would no doubt indicate that the intention of the donor could not have been to confer private benefits on particular people whose possible necessities he had in mind ; but the fact that the capital of the gift was to be distributed at once did not necessarily show that the gift was a private trust.
Jenkins LJ set out five general propositions upon whether a trust for the relief of poverty was charitable, saying: (i) It is a general rule that a trust or gift in order to be charitable in the legal sense must be for the benefit of the public or some section of the public; . . (ii) An aggregate of individuals ascertained by reference to some personal tie (e.g. of blood or contract) such as the relations of a particular individual, the members of a particular family, the employees of a particular firm, the members of a particular association, does not amount to the public or a section thereof for the purposes of the general rule; . . (in) It follows that according to the general rule above stated a trust or gift under which the beneficiaries or potential beneficiaries are confined (that is an important word) to some aggregate of individuals ascertained as above is not legally charitable even though its purposes are such that it would have been legally charitable if the range of potential beneficiaries had extended to the public at large or a section thereof (e.g. an educational trust confined as in Re Compton to the lawful descendants of three named persons, or, as in Oppenhein v. Tobacco Securities Trust Co., Ltd. to the children of employees of former employees of a particular company); . . (iv) There is, however, an exception to the general rule in that trusts or gifts for the relief of poverty have been held to be charitable even though they are limited in their application to some aggregate of individuals ascertained as above, and are, therefore, not trusts or gifts for the benefit of the public or a section thereof. This exception operates whether the personal tie is one of blood (as in the numerous so-called ‘poor relations’ cases, to some of which I will presently refer) or of contract . .’
References: [1951] 1 All ER 822, [1951] Ch 622
Judges: Jenkins LJ
Jurisdiction: England and Wales
This case cites:

  • Appeal from – Scarisbrick’s Will Trusts, In re ChD 1950
    The court considered whether a trust was charitable.
    Held: The distinction lay in whether the gift took the form of a trust under which capital was retained and the income only applied for the benefit of the objects, in which case the gift was . .
    ([1950] 1 All ER 143, [1950] Ch 226)

This case is cited by:

  • Approved – Dingle v Turner and Others HL 16-Feb-1972
    Gift to Specified person not Charitable
    The testator left part of his property on charitable trusts for the relief of the poverty of ‘the poor employees’ of a company. The appellant argued that it was not a charitable gift, and that the gift failed.
    Held: The purpose will not be . .
    (, [1972] 2 WLR 523, , [1972] UKHL 2, [1972] AC 601)

These lists may be incomplete.
Last Update: 27 November 2020; Ref: scu.181257