RSPCA – Greedy Bastards

Following on from the Dr Gill case a while back, JuliaM draws my attention to the RSPCA’s latest little gimmick – attempted theft from the beneficiaries of the dead.

Visitors to the website of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals are told that more than half of the charity’s annual income – which totalled almost £120m in 2008 – comes from legacies in wills. “We’re incredibly grateful to these thoughtful animal lovers and, as with any donation, their gifts will be put to good use,” the site says.

Which is very decent of those benefactors.

But John Mason, whose brother George bequeathed more than £480,000 to the charity when he died, would probably disagree.

As it turns out, he has good reason to.

The 85-year-old, from Enfield in north London, recently joined a growing list of people who have been dragged through the courts by the RSPCA after disagreements with the charity.

A bit like Dr Gill, only with a rather different and altogether nastier twist.

In his will, Mr Mason’s brother divided his £1m fortune between the charity, his brother and two of his closest friends, Norman and Patricia Sharp. But, under Britain’s complicated tax laws, the RSPCA was concerned it was going to have to pay inheritance tax on its share of the estate. So it took Mr Mason and the Sharps to court to try to get them to pay some of the tax out of their bequests.

I had to read that twice. This organisation wants the other benefactors of the will to pay its share of the IHT. Yup, that’s right. Greed doesn’t come close to describing this activity. Nor does spite, malice or wickedness. This is attempted theft by any other name and it smells as foul.

However, at the High Court in London last week, Mr Justice Peter Smith dismissed the claim and ordered the RSPCA to pay the costs. The judge said the charity’s case had been “extremely weak and should not have been brought”, and refused to give it permission to appeal.

This is a sensible judgement and sets a precedent should this evil, scheming organisation try the same trick with some other grieving unfortunate.

He said it was “clear” from George Mason’s will that he had never intended for any tax liability to fall on his brother or friends. Despite the ruling, he said, the RSPCA would still receive £370,000 of Mr Mason’s money.

Yes, I’d have thought it pretty clear, too. In general, when people leave bequests, they don’t intend that some benefactors pick up the tax liability for others. It takes a deeply perverse view of the world to reach such a conclusion – or one blinded by avarice.

The problem, of course, is that bullies like to use solicitors’ letters to cow people into submission. I’ve been there and understand what it feels like to read the dire threats issued in dry legalese, intended to frighten the recipient, despite the weakness of the claim being made. It’s designed to browbeat people into giving up their rights because it will be too expensive to fight, encouraging them to take the easy, less expensive option; submission, compliance and ultimately paying up to the tormentor. This is the tactic of the coward and the bully. However, my reaction was not the typical one. I do not give in to bullies. My reaction was to stand and fight. It is good that others respond likewise.

We decided that the only way forward was to try to stand up to them. To be honest, we didn’t think they would ever take it to court, because their position was so tenuous and their argument was so technical we thought they wouldn’t risk it.

In general, that would be the likely outcome of most disputes. It was the outcome of mine, for example, the bully backed down rather than have his tenuous case tested. The RSPCA are in another league when it comes to bullying, it seems. They went the full nautical mile. And, rightly, justly, it cost them dear.

The parasite who represented the RSPCA thinks the ruling unfair.

But Paul Hewitt, a partner at Withers law firm who fought the RSPCA’s case against Mr Mason, told The Independent yesterday that he felt the ruling in that case had been “grossly unfair” and that the judge had been “wrong” to dismiss the case. He also pointed out that the “vast majority” of legacy cases in which the charity is involved are settled out of court.

Mr Hewitt clearly does not use the same English dictionary as I do, as the only unfair, wrong thing here was the wholly reprehensible action he took on behalf of his sleazy client to bully the recently bereaved in order to squeeze even more than the generous donation they were left from the deceased’s estate. And, frankly, there was nothing to settle. The charity – and I use the word loosely – was given a very generous sum of money and decided to mug the remaining beneficiaries, too. But, then, I would have nothing to do with them in the first instance. This organisation will never see a penny of my money – alive or dead.

If I say to a charity: ‘I’m leaving you £200,000’, and the charity only receives £50,000, should it just walk away?

Yes, because the dispute is with the government, not the other beneficiaries.

In general, don’t give money to the RSPCA. Don’t leave them anything in your will. And if you find yourself in the same position as the Masons, fight the bastards every inch of the way. If you do want to give to animal charities, give to the small, independent ones not the RSPCA.


  1. Here’s as good a reason as any why it is often not a good idea to donate to the larger ‘charities’. These charities are usually for the benefit of those they employ and not for the cause that they claim to serve.


  2. It sounds to me that the blokes will stated the people should get x each and the charity got the remainder after the tax was paid. Ie the people got the exact amount he specified and didn’t have to pay any tax. Its a quite normal way of writing a will. And pretty obvious to anyone with the slightest amount of legal training, who reads the will.

    The fact that the RSPCA tried it on, in what can only be described as an utterly ruthless manner that would shame the most shark-like of City financiers, is to its eternal shame.

    If anyone is considering leaving money to the RSPCA I hope this case will change their minds. There are plenty of other animal charities that actually do good work with sick and mistreated animals, and are not a multimillion political campaign group masquerading as a charity.

  3. Well said Longrider. I have for a long time objected to the way charities do their canvassing and their money grabbing emotional blackmailing advertising. If the charity does not stand on its own two feet by the essence of its existence, then the rest is down to marketing and a sales executive making his money, which I want no part of. And as for the RSPCA their only recourse to law should be for the prosecution of animal cruelty.

  4. The RSPCA’s a special case for evil. My late father-in-law was a dairy farmer who had run-ins with their inspectors on a number of occasions. He was passionate about his herd, and would keep lame or sick cows in a paddock by the house so he could check on them regularly. Inevitably the RSPCA would rock up and accuse him of cruelty, then demand spot fines to go away. On one occasion he shot a dog that was attacking calves in a field. The matter was resolved with the police, even the owner admitted liability. Then guess who turns up demanding money with menaces? Surprise, surprise…

  5. Similar to the behaviour of Oxfam after the death of my father – he left a small amount to them in his will and, due to other issues, probate was a rather drawn-out process and I was what can be best described as bombarded by them with demands for their money. Never dropped so much as a penny in one of their begging bowls since, the greedy fuckers.

    How does the old saying go? ‘Charity salves the conscience of the middle classes and lets the government off the hook’

  6. Stories like this make me feel exceedingly sad. My Grandfather worked for many years as an RSPCA Inspector as he had an overwhelming love of animals – indeed, my Father commented upon his death (which literally occurred at the wheel of his RSPCA van; he had a massive and instantly fatal heart attack but fortunately he trundled to a halt without putting anyone else at risk) that he probably loved animals far more than humans. Whilst he devoted himself to the animals he helped, he clearly worked for a bunch of shits whose tactics would not seem out of place if employed by organised gangsters.

  7. Controversial words, I know, but… in fairness to the RSPCA…

    This is what the will actually said:

    “3. I GIVE the amount which at my death equals the maximum which I can give to them by this my Will without Inheritance Tax becoming payable in respect of this gift:
    (a) as to seventy-eight percent (78%) to the said NORMAN JAMES SHARP and PATRICIA DAPHNE SHARP as shall survive me and if more than one in equal shares absolutely
    (b) as to twenty-two percent (22%) to JOHN EDWARD MASON of [address edited out – Ed] absolutely

    4. I GIVE my property situate and known as [address edited out – Ed] to the said NORMAN JAMES SHARP and PATRICIA DAPHNE SHARP as shall survive me and if more than one jointly and equally absolutely and I direct that the Inheritance Tax (if any) payable on my death in respect of the property and all costs of the registration of the said NORMAN JAMES SHARP and PATRICIA DAPHNE SHARP as proprietors thereof shall be payable out of my residuary estate.

    5. SUBJECT TO the payment of my just debts funeral and testamentary expenses and the legacies given by this my Will or any Codicil hereto I GIVE DEVISE AND BEQUEATH the residue of my estate of whatsoever nature and wheresoever situate (which said estate and property and the property for the time being representing the same and herein referred to as “my residuary estate”) unto my trustees upon trust to sell the same or any part thereof or to retain the same or any part thereof in its actual state of investment or condition at the time of my death.

    6. MY TRUSTEES shall stand possessed of my residuary estate upon trust for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Causeway Horsham West Sussex RH12 1HG for its general purposes and I direct that the receipt of the secretary treasurer or other proper officer shall be a sufficient discharge to my trustees.”

    That is not as clear cut as it seemed from the reports. Indeed on my reading it looks as though the first gift was intended to fluctuate depending on the value of the house. I think that is what the RSPCA were arguing.

  8. Hmm, not according to Jonathan Troop who has been in contact about this:

    The Judge also said that if the RSPCA’s interpretation of the will was correct and the house in Gosport was worth £300,000 rather than £169,000 John Mason who was the deceased’s only living relative would receive nothing which clearly was never intended.

    The RSPCA were left a generous settlement in the will. Any attempt to increase it through court action against the other beneficiaries was wholly reprehensible – no matter what justification thy tried on. I have to say, reading this (and I’ve edited out the addresses), I agree with the Masons and the Judge on this one.

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