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Funds from the sale of closed church schools

02 November 2006


From the Chief Education Officer of the Church of England
Sir, - Your headline "School-sale verdict sends shiver up dioceses' spine" ( News, 4 November) on a recent House of Lords judgment in relation to reverter and a closed church school in Maidstone exacerbates the misleading impression created by your legal correspondent's final paragraph.

Reverter of sites is an area of law with which all diocesan boards of education are familiar. Dioceses have been dealing with reverter and its consequences for many years. In rejecting the Court of Appeal's judgment, the House of Lords confirmed the status quo ante.

While there may be cases where proceeds of sale had been held until the House of Lords decision was known, we do not think that the decision will have a significant financial impact on schools' work in the Church of England generally.
Education Division and National Society
Church House
Great Smith Street
London SW1P 3NZ

From Mr Christopher Whitmey
Sir, - If Philippe Fraser ( "School-sale verdict sends shiver up dioceses' spine") thinks it disingenuous to ask what he will do with the money from this case, then his analogy of lending his neighbour his car, which should be returned when the neighbour dies and not pass with the residuary estate, is far from candid. If I found "his car" , of which he had carelessly lost track, would it be right for me to charge a considerable fee for telling him where it was?

Some years ago, on behalf of a national charity, I responded to an offer from Fraser & Fraser to "get" the charity funds from an estate. They let slip that it was a school site, and also named the deceased cleric: via Crockford, I was soon speaking to the appropriate diocese. We preferred the funds stayed with the diocese to further church schools.

Lord Walker observed: "The appellants are genealogists who are assignees, no doubt for value. . . But Mr McCall QC (for the Board of Finance) did not suggest that this had any bearing on the legal strength of their claims. Indeed he chivalrously refrained from drawing any attention to this aspect of the matter; but it is apparent from the papers before the House."

As a trustee, I will take a more robust approach. Is it really equitable that distant beneficiaries of a 19th-century schools' benefactor who forgot to keep track of his property should wrest funds from similar charitable purposes at the instigation of a fee-earner? Not a genial aspect of genealogy - let alone the Tenth Commandment.
Oldstone Furlong, Fownhope
Hereford HR1 4PJ

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