Nephew’s inheritance and fraud allegations dropped

The case against three people accused of fraudulently securing an estate and attempting to defraud the HMRC has been dropped by the England and Wales High Court, upholding a previous decision by the Crown Prosecution Services.

The STEP website reported that Reginald Atkins’ nephew, Charles Constable, had accused Constance Atkins, Brian Oxley and Jane Oxley of the crime. He alleged Constance Atkins, then Constance Oxley, had persuaded his uncle to change his Will in her favour not long after she met him in 2002. At the time he was 79 and seriously ill.

Not long after he changed his Will, Atkins transferred his property into the joint names of Mrs Oxley and himself by deed of gift. After that, he married Mrs Oxley.

Cut out of Will

Reginald Atkins changed his Will once more in 2008 when he cut out Charles Constable entirely and left his whole estate to Brian Oxley, his wife’s son. Mr Atkins died a few months later.

Mr Constable entered a caveat at Brighton probate registry preventing the grant of probate being issued for his uncle’s 2008 Will. He claimed the Will had been made thanks to undue influence and/or lack of testamentary capacity. However, Mr Constable failed to issue a claim in time, the caveat was cancelled, and he was ordered to pay £17,300 in costs.

He then issued a damages claim in the High Court, accusing the Oxleys to trying to evade inheritance tax on the estate by failing to declare his share in the property and his personal possessions when they applied for probate. He lost the claim.

Private investigation

In February 2018, Mr Constable launched a private investigation against Constance, her son and Jane Oxley. He referred this prosecution to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and asked the service to take it over on his behalf. However, when the CPS reviewed the case, it decided there was no independent evidence of conspiracy between the Oxleys and no independent evidence that proved any of them had exerted undue influence over Mr Atkins.

While the Oxleys had omitted to declare the house’s value relating to inheritance tax, independent evidence was not there to show this was a dishonest intention rather than a mistake. The property was listed on the form with the value missing. As it turned out, no inheritance tax would have been due anyway.

At the time, the CPS concluded that the case did not meet the evidential test for dishonesty. The prosecution was dropped. Mr Constable brought a judicial review challenge to the decision. He alleged it was “perverse to the extent that no reasonable prosecutor could have reached it”.

The High Court rejected his plea, accepting the CPS’ argument that there was no damages claim and the police investigation showed there had been no criminal offence. The application by Constable was ruled to be ‘totally without merit’ and he was ordered to pay £1,500, although payment was unlikely to happen as he is thought be bankrupt.


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