Unincorporated Associations Cases

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Bacon v Pianta [1966] 114 CLR 634

Facts: The property was transferred to the communist party of Australia (an unincorporated association).

Held: Again the transfer of the property to the unincorporated association failed on the basis that the unincorporated association lacked legal personality and therefore cannot hold the property

Hanchett-Stamford v A-G [2008] EWHC 330

Facts: This case concerns an unincorporated association called the Preforming and Captive Animals Defence League. This unincorporated association was formed in 1941 with the aim of changing the law to ban performing animals. Eventually its membership fell to just 2 members and then the penultimate member died. A question arose as to what should be done with £2.5million worth of assets that the society held under the contract-holding theory

Held: The court reasoned that as the association’s contract was discharged on the penultimate member’s death, the funds simply belonged to the association’s members at the time of the dissolution free from contractual restrictions; and of course only one member existed so she (Mrs Hanchett-Stamford) could take the £2.5million pounds of assets absolutely

Leahy v A-G for New South Wales [1959] UKPC 1

Facts: Property was transferred to an order of catholic nuns.

Held: The order was held to be an unincorporated association and so the transfer of property to it was held to fail

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Re GKN Bolts & Nuts Ltd etc. Work Sports and Social Club [1982] 1 WLR 774

Facts: There was a social club which had gradually ceased to operate

Held: The court concluded that everyone regarded the society as stopped having any purpose or function; this was evidenced by the fact that membership cards were no longer issued and were looking to sell its final asset linked to the society (its sports field). So the court concluded that all concerned regarded the society as no longer existing; so the club had became moribund and was therefore dissolved

Re Horley Town FC [2006] EWHC 2386

Held: Freehold land was settled on trust “for the primary purpose of securing a permanent ground for the Horley FC” held valid as a contract-holding gift

  • This looks like a purpose trust, but this not held valid as a Re Denley purpose trust as the judge didn't believe in them

Re Lipinski [1976] Ch 235

Facts: Money was given to an unincorporated association (the Hull Judeans association) “to be used solely in constructing new buildings” → so this looks like it could be a purpose trust (i.e. money to be used settled solely for a particular purpose: to construct new buildings)

Held: But the judge didn't hold this valid as a Re Denley purpose trust because they didn't believe such a thing could exist, so instead the transfer was reinterpreted as a straightforward outright transfer to the unincorporated association, which threw up the legal problem that it is impossible to do that as the unincorporated association lacks legal personality, therefore engaging the need for a proxy to give effect to the transfer → and the proxy selected was of course the contract-holding theory

Re St John’s Sick and Funeral Society [1973] Ch 51

Facts: In this case, an unincorporated association existed to provide sickness and death benefits to its members. The membership of the society comprised both adults and children. The children paid their subscriptions to the society at half the adult rate and received the benefits at half the rate too. Given that, when the society dissolved, the court had to determine how surplus funds under the contract-holding theory were to be applied.

Held: There was no express term, so the court implied a term directing that all adult members be given an equal amount of the surplus, but each child to receive only half the amount of each adult reflecting the fact that each child paid a reduced subscription rate and only received half the benefits offered

Re West Sussex Constabulary Trusts [1971] Ch 1

Facts: This case involved the West Susssex Constabulary (an unincorporated association) and derived revenue from various sources, including collection boxes, donations, legacies etc.

Held: It was held that these voluntary payments were held on trust for the West Sussex Constabulary’s non-charitable purpose of granting allowances to widow’s and dependent’s of deceased members → so the proxy used was a Re Denley non-charitable purpose trust

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