The notorious Dr Crippen: reforming forfeiture

Sometimes a bill passes through Parliament which is quite technical. The Succession (Scotland) Bill, passed today, was one such bill. Designed to make the law on succession fairer, clearer and more consistent it was the first significant amendment to the law of succession in more than 50 years. I was interested to note its impact on legislation over four hundred years old, with a gruesome murder thrown in:

The Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs (Paul Wheelhouse): The bill also sweeps away some very old legislation, through the repeal of the Parricide Act 1594 and reform of the law relating to forfeiture. The notorious Dr Crippen was found guilty of murdering his wife Cora. He inherited from his wife and as he sat in jail awaiting his fate of hanging he wrote a will leaving his estate to his mistress. However, the judge said that

“it is clear that the law is that no person can obtain or enforce any right resulting to him from his own crime”,

and Dr Crippen was thus subject to the law of forfeiture. Forfeiture is where an individual loses their right to inherit because they have unlawfully killed their benefactor. At the moment, although such an individual would lose any rights to inherit, the way in which they are treated in the eyes of the law also dictates how any inheritance would be distributed to others. We have therefore made changes to ensure that the law is fairer and more consistent.

You can read the full debate in the Official Report. 

You can follow the passage of the bill through the Scottish Parliament on the Succession (Scotland) Bill page.

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