Ninian v. Findlay  EWHC 297 (Ch)
How is the legal issue that the judge addresses in Paragraphs 47-49 inclusive (beginning with section 2(1) of the Forfeiture Act ending with, “the motivation of the offender”) applied in this case
The Judge addressed the issue of relief from forfeiture, therefore relied on the provision of section 2(1) of the Forfeiture Act where the court may make an order modifying or excluding the effect of the forfeiture rule. The provision of section 2(2) makes it clear that the court must not make such an order unless it is satisfied that the test set out there is satisfied. The court must have regard to the conduct of the offender and the circumstances.
To issue a relief of forfeiture provided under section 2(1) of the Forfeiture Act, the court used the following assessment to reach its decision, they are:
The court in reaching its determination established that Mr. Ninian had made up his mind and he voluntarily did so. It further established that Mrs. Ninian was wholly motivated by compassion as they were married for 34 years and it was established that they had a strong and loving relationship. It was also established that the assistance offered by Mrs. Ninian was reluctantly done as the husband had made up his mind. Finally, it was also established that Mrs. Ninian reported the matter to the police and assisted them with the investigations.
The court established that there was no motivation for Mrs. Ninian to kill her husband. The court relied on their affection towards each other and also the size of the estate of the two. The court noted that the size of Mrs. Ninian’s independent estate was way larger compared to that of Mr. Ninian. Therefore, the court granted the relief as the test set out in section 2(2) was achieved.
Critically evaluate the importance of the decision in Ninian taking into account not only its importance to relief from forfeiture but also the principles of co-ownership more broadly.
The decision in the Ninian case established principles that are to be followed by the court in excising the provision of section 2(1) of the Forfeiture Act. The case established strict measures that are to be followed by the court as provided under section 2(2) to exonerate one and enable them not to lose their interest in the deceased property. The court before exercising the forfeiture relief it must establish that the tests set out in the case on Ninian are fulfilled beyond any shadow of a doubt. This is because if there are doubts the court will not grant the relief.
The case also contributed broadly to the principles of co-ownership. The court established that one who commits the offense on the balance of probability cannot be allowed to benefit from it. Therefore, such a person forfeits their interest in the estate of the deceased and the jointly held assets are severed.
What this implies is that co-owned property cannot be transferred to the surviving party when they are found guilty of their action under the Suicide Act. The purpose of this is to make sure that people do not benefit from their illegal acts or actions. The court provided for strict application of the law to make sure that those that owned properties jointly do not kill each other than the claim that the other party committed suicide. The conduct of the surviving owner will be used by the court to establish their innocence. The conduct of the surviving party will be used by the court to establish their motivation, if there is any reason to believe that the offender was motivated to take such action such as to retain the property then the court will not hesitate to cut off the jointly owned property.
The decision by the court was fundamental in ensuring that the principles of co-ownership are achieved. This ensures that the interest of the parties is protected and cannot be derogated from by any party. The court cannot be used to reward surviving parities of a co-owned property through illegality.