Trio Escape Estate Fraud Prosecution

Constance Atkins, Brian Oxley and Jane Oxley were accused of estate fraud in relation to Reginald Atkins. The England and Wales High Court (EWHC) upheld the Crown Prosecution Service’s (CPS) decision to not prosecute the trio with regards to fraudulently obtaining the estate.

Charles Constable, the nephew of the deceased (Reginald Atkins) alleged that Constance Atkins nee Oxley, induced Reginald to change his will in her favour back in 2002.

After he changed his will, he then transferred the ownership of his property into the joint names of himself and Oxley by deed of gift. Despite being 79, and in poor health, he then went on to marry Constance.

Six years later in 2008, further changes were made to Reginald’s will which saw him, disinherit his nephew Charles and leaving the whole of his estate to his wife’s son Brian. Later in 2008, Reginald sadly passed away.

Following the death of his uncle, Charles entered a caveat at Brighton probate registry office preventing them from issuing Reginald’s grant of probate. Even though Charles was citing undue influence and / or lack of testamentary capacity, the caveat was cancelled due to him failing to issue a claim in time. The courts then ordered him to pay £17,300 in costs.

Charles then went one step further and approached the EWHC, alleging that the Oxleys failed to declare his share in the property and we attempting to avoid inheritance tax. He also accused them of failing to declare his personal posessions when they applied for probate. However, the EWHC didn’t find in Charles’ favour.

Undeterred by all of the door closing in his face, and feeling frustrated at the injustice. In 2018, Charles sought the help of the CPS and launched a private prosecution against the trio.

After reviewing the case, the CPS came to the decision that they were unable to find a conspiracy between the Oxleys and there was no evidence to prove they had influenced Reginald to change his will.

The only misdemeanors the CPS uncovered revolved around the inheritance tax accusation. It transpired that the Oxley’s omitted to declare the house’s value on the IHT205. However, this was put down to an honest mistake as opposed to a criminal offence. This was due to the fact the property was listed even though the value was missing.

It transpires that there was no inheritance tax due to be paid on the estate anyway.

After the CPS decided to not pursue with the prosecution, Charles then sought the help of the EWHC.

Cutts J in the EWHC rejected Charles’ please, and sided with the CPS that there were no criminal offences to be charged.

Cutts ruled the application was ‘totally without merit’ and dismissed the case (Constable v COS, 2020 EWHC 1760 Admin).

To add insult to injury, Charles was ordered to pay costs of £1,500.

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