Four charities are suing a former solicitor, claiming that she stole money they were left in a bequest.
Linda Mary Box was jailed for seven years in 2017 after admitting 12 offences of fraud, theft and forgery and was ultimately struck off the roll of solicitors, with a further eight years to be added to her sentence if she failed to repay £2.5m of the stolen money.
Guide Dogs, Yorkshire Cancer Research, the British Heart Foundation and National Trust, now allege that the funds Box stole included money they were left in a bequest by Ernest Scholefield.
It has emerged that two claims have been brought against Box, a former partner with Wakefield firm Dixon Coles and Gill, which contend they have sustained loss from her criminal activities.
One claim is brought against Box and her co-executor Julian Gill, as well as against the firm, which entered into a partnership voluntary arrangement on 7 June. There is no suggestion that Gill was aware of Box’s criminal activities.
A claim is also brought directly against HDI Global Speciality SE, the firm’s professional indemnity insurer.
The charities are arguing that Gill, along with the law firm and its insurance company, HDI Global Specialty, are liable for the lost funds. All three parties deny any liability.
There is also a separate claim brought by the Bishop of Leeds on behalf of various Church of England organisations and charities who claim that they have incurred loss through Box’s criminal activities.
The High Court will rule on both claims at a hearing in September.
Katherine Ellis, a senior associate solicitor in the charities and communities department at Thursfields, said: “This was an extremely rare case, as the vast majority of executors and solicitors will deal with matters in an appropriate and lawful manner.
“However, we would advise that it is imperative that charities are vigilant when it comes to gifts left to them in wills.
“While charities are undoubtedly grateful for these gifts, they are still entitled to ask questions, seek updates, and obtain further specialist advice, particularly if they have concerns about the way in which the administration of an estate is being handled.”
Janet Morrison from the Baring Foundation writes about how frontline charities can do more to support clients by using the law to challenge decision.