How to Write Awesome Notes at Your Law Lectures

How to Write Awesome Notes at Your Law Lectures

Below is an example of some law lecture notes that were prepared by an undergraduate law student who went on to achieve a first class in their degree. These lecture notes should help you to structure your lecture notes. Please note: law lecture notes are meant to be a working document that is meant to assist you with revision and understanding the key legal principles.

The special status of charitable trusts

The exclusivity requirement

  • A charity is permitted to pursue non-charitable purposes that are merely ancillary to, incidental to, or de minimis in comparison with, its charitable purposes.
  • Re Coxen
    • £100 towards an annual dinner for the alderman upon their meeting together on trust business; to pay one guinea to each alderman attending the whole of a committee meeting in connection with the trust; to apply the remainder for the benefit of certain medical charities.
  • A charity is permitted to charge for its services as long as it is not in the business of making commercial profits
    • Scottish Burial Reform and Cremation Society Ltd v Glasgow Corporation

Special status in trust law

  • Charitable trusts are also exempt from the beneficiary principle, because the beneficiary of a charitable trust is the public at large, or a section of it, so it falls to the Charity Commissioners to ensure that the trustees discharge their trusts
  • If a charitable trust fails, the fund will not return to the settlor under a resulting trust and it will not pass to the Crown as bona vacantia; it will be applied cy-pres by the court or the Charity Commissioners to charitable purposes as near as possible in kind to the charitable purposes specified by the settlor

Special status for tax purposes

  • Exempt from income tax and corporation tax
  • Charities are also exempt from capital gains tax on gains applied exclusively for charitable purposes
  • Independent fee-paying schools
    • Schools must demonstrate public benefit

Charitable Purposes

  • Section 2 of the Act contains the first statutory definition of ‘charitable purpose’
    • Two criteria: Section 2(1)
      • It comes under one of the ‘heads’ of charity listed in the statute; and
      • That it is for the public benefit
    • We have already observed that the concept of public benefit is gloriously vague and we will see that the ‘heads’ of charity are marvelously open-ended
      • They are rather a list of purpose that were historically recognized to confer some public benefit at the time – to which, in the future, will be added those purposes that are recognized to confer some public benefit at a future time
    • The long list of ‘heads’, or categories, of charitable purpose which are set down
    • Before the Charities Act 2006, ‘charitable purposes’ were those that the Preamble to the Charitable Uses Act 1601 – the so-called ‘Statute of Elizabeth’
      • ‘by analogies’ were deemed ‘within its spirit and intendment’
    • The legal concept of ‘charitable purpose’ is shorthand for ‘saves public money’
      • That is what it appears to mean.
      • It is the fact that charitable purposes save public money or, to put it more broadly, the fact that they are beneficial to the public, which justifies the trust law and fiscal privileges that charities enjoy
    • The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) proposed that, where the law raises a presumption of charitable status in favour of certain purposes, the presumption should be removed in all cases and replaced by a requirement that any purpose claiming charitable status must be able to demonstrate that it is beneficial to the public before charitable status will be conferred
    • The ‘Explanatory notes’ accompanying the 2006 Act admit that, in this sense, the Act puts ‘all charitable purposes on the same footing’ as regards public benfit

The Heads of Charity

  • In certain broad guidelines, on a case-by-case basis
    • Gilmour v. Coats: Lord Simonds; “the law of charity…has been built up not logically by empirically”.
  • The result is a vast body of case law, built upon a fairly meager skeleton of principle
  • A. Sheridan, Keeton: The law of charity is encyclopaedic and there are, indeed, several textbooks devoted solely to its study
    • In Commissioners for Special Purpose of the Income Tax v Pemsel: Lord Macnaghten suggested that every charitable purpose can be classified under one of the four heads:
      • Trusts for the relief of poverty;
      • Trusts for the advancement of education;
      • Trusts for the advancement of religion;
      • Trusts for other purposes beneficial to the community not falling under any of the preceding heads
    • Greater influence on modern decisions than the Preamble to the 1601 Act.
  • Charities Act 2006 has now extended the ‘heads’ of charity to a ‘baker’s dozen’ – that is, 12 substantive categories, plus a 13 residual category comprising ‘other existing charitable purposes or analogous charitable purposes’:
    • Poverty; education; religion; health or the saving of lives; citizenship or community development; arts, culture, heritage or science; amateur sport; human rights, conflict resolution, reconciliation, promotion of religious or racial harmony or equality and diversity; environmental protection; youth, age, ill-health, disability, financial hardship; animal welfare
      • Of religion now includes a religion that involves belief in more than one god [section 2(3)(1)(i)] and a religion that does not involve belief in god


  • Dingle v Turner: “poor persons”
    • Re Gardom: Destitute are always poor, but that the poor are not always destitute: ‘there are degrees of poverty less acute than abject poverty or destitution, but poverty nevertheless
  • Charity commission, ‘anyone who cannot afford the normal things in life which most people take for granted would probably qualify for help
    • Re Coulthurst: person in poverty is one who has to “go short” in the ordinary acceptation of that term, due regard being had to their status in life, and so forth
    • Re Young: established for members of one of London’s exclusive gentleman’s clubs who ‘have fallen on evil days’.
    • Re Sutton: Neither can it be presumed that a trust established for the benefit of the so-called ‘working classes’ will be a valid charitable trust for the relief of the poor; there are many very important members of the working classes
    • Re Niyazi’s Will Trusts: trust to build ‘hostels’ for working men was held to be a valid charitable trusts
    • Re Sanders’ Will Trusts: a trust to provide ‘dwellings’ for working class families was now
  • Charity must be exclusively charitable
    • Have power to deny benefits to the financially well-off
    • Re Gwyon: the testator directed that the residue of his estate should be applied by his executor to establish the ‘Gwyon’s Boys Clothing Foundation’: a foundation to provide ‘knickers’ for boys aged between 10 and 15 in a certain district. The boys could replace their old pair for a new pair, provided that the words ‘Gwyon’s Present’ were still legible on the waist band of the old pair
      • None of the conditions of the gift necessarily imported poverty. Eve J noted that the trustees would have no power to refuse a boy his gift on the ground merely that the boy was materially affluent

Public benefit requirement under the first head

  • Charities Act 2006 removes any presumption that charitable purposes are for the public benefit, no matter under which head the purpose falls.
  • Dingle v Turner: A trust to relieve the poverty of an identified individual or individuals will not be charitable, but a trust to relieve the poverty of a class of private person will be, unless the class is so small and closed that it becomes in essence a trust for certain identifiable individuals
  • Re Coulthurst: a trust for the benefit of widows and orphaned children of deceased officers and deceased ex-officers of a particular bank was held to be a valid charitable trust despite the fact that the potential beneficiaries were all connected to a single private employer.
  • Re Scarisbrick: It is even permitted to establish valid charitable trusts exclusively for the benefit of one’s own poor relations
  • Re Segelman: a trust for the ‘poor and needy’ of a class comprising at the time of the hearing, a mere 26 people related to the testator, a multimillionaire was held to be a valid charitable trust
    • Nearly infringed the rule that relief should not be restricted to named individuals, it was saved by the inclusion of after-born issue of the 26 identified beneficiaries within the class of potential beneficiaries who might themselves be, or become, poor

The second head: the advancement of education

  • Improvement of a useful branch of human knowledge and its public dissemination
  • Re Shaw: it was held that knowledge must be combined with teaching or education. Re Shaw concerned, amongst other things, a failed attempt by the writer George Bernard Shaw to establish a trust to determine how much effort might be saved by replacing the 26-letter English alphabet with a new 40-letter phonetic ‘British Alphabet’ Harman J held that this was not a valid charitable trust for the advancement of education, but a trust for the advancement of purely private purposes
  • Re Hopkins: Heretical one of searching for evidence for Francis Bacon’s authorship of plays commonly attributed to William Shakespeare, the trust was held to be charitable.
    • The judge accepted that expert evidence was almost unanimously against the Baconian claim, but noted that ‘heretics are not necessarily wrong’.
    • His Lordship also held  that a trust for the advancement of education is a valid charitable trust even though it might advance the education of none but the researchers themselves
  • Sport
    • R v Leather: ‘The Englishman’, it has been said, ‘never enjoys himself except for a noble purpose. He does not play cricket because it is a good game, but because it makes good citizens.’
    • Re Dupree’s Trusts, Vaisey J was persuaded to recognize the charitable status of a gift for the promotion of an annual chess tournament, because chess is more than a mere game – it encourages foresight, concentration, memory, and ingenuity – and the trustees included the chairman of the Portsmouth Education Committee and the headmaster of Portsmouth Grammar School

The public benefit requirement under the second head

  • An educational trust established for the benefit of a numerically negligible class of persons or persons distinguishable from other members of the public by reason of their relationship to a particular individual will not be charitable.
  • Oppenheim: a trust for ‘the education of children of employees or former employees of the British-American Tobacco Co Ltd was refused charitable status because, although the employees referred to numbered over 110,000, there were all identified by their personal ‘nexus’ to the employer company
    • Caffoor v Commissioners of Income Tax: not be charitable if the settlor directs the trustees to prefer the employees of a particular company or members of his own family
    • Re Koetggen: settlor merely expresses his ‘wish’ that the trustees should prefer the employees of a particular company or members of his own family, the trust will be presumed charitable

The third head: the advancement of religion

  • Unique
  • 1601 Preamble to the repair of churches
  • What is ‘religion’ for the purposes of charitable status?
    • Charity Commission Commentary: Belief in a ‘Supreme Being’ is still a ‘necessary characteristic of religion in charity law and goes on to state that a Supreme Being ‘may be in the form of one god or many gods or no god at all in the accepted understanding of the term
    • Yeap Cheah Neo v Ong Chen Neo: ancestor, would be stretching the label ‘Supreme Being’ too far to attach it to ordinary human ancestors
  • Judicial ‘neutrality’ between religions
    • Neville Estates v Madden: as between different religions the law stands neutral, but it assumes that any religion is at least likely to be better than none
    • Thornton v Howe: a gift of land to assist in the promotion and publication of the ‘sacred writings of the late ‘Joanna Southcote’ was held to be charitable even though that ‘foolish ignorant woman’ claimed to be with child by the Holy Spirt
    • The court of Chancery makes no distinction between one religion and another…[or] one sect and another…[unless] the tenants of a particular sect inculcate doctrines adverse to the very foundations of all religions and…subversive of all morality
    • Church of New Faith v Commissioner for Pay-Roll Tax: anybody which claims to be religious, and offers a way to find meaning and purpose in life, is religion

The public benefit requirement under the third head

  • Particular religion or religious practice is actually detrimental to the public, convers no tangible benefit on the public

The fourth head: the advancement of health or the saving of lives

  • Relief of sickness, disease, or human suffering
  • Resch’s Will Trusts: trust to pay two-thirds of the income ‘to Sisters of Charity for a period of 200 years so long as they shall conduct the St Vincent’s Private Hospital’

The fifth head: the advancement of citizenship or community development

The sixth head: the advancement of arts, culture, heritage, or science

  • There is no reference in the Preamble of 1601
  • Royal Choral Society v IRC: Lord Greene MR: ‘the education of artistic taste is one of the most important things in the development of a civilized human being’
    • However, the cases suggest that it is only charitable to promote artistic taste if it is good taste, whatever that might be
  • Re Delius: the widow of Frederick Delius, the composer, left her residuary estate to trustees upon trust to apply the income therefrom
    • A valid charitable purpose
    • It must be charitable to promote music of a particular composer, presupposing…that the composer is one whose music is worth appreciating
  • The leading case Re Pinion: left his freehold studio, together with his paintings and some antique furniture, silver, china and so forth, to be offered to the National Trust to be kept together as a collection.
    • The income from his residuary estate was left to be used for the maintenance of collection
    • ‘that there is an accepted canon of taste on which the court must rely, for it has itself no judicial knowledge of such matters’
    • ‘I can conceive of no useful object to be served in foisting on the public this mass of junk’

The seventh head: the advancement of amateur sport

  • School sports, such as football trusts, are better considered under the education head
  • Re Duprees Deed Trusts: Seventh head must involve physical skill and exertion. Less energetic sports, such as chess, may be charitable, but only if they are educational
  • Before the Charities Act 2006, amateur sports that did not fall “capable of improving physical health and fitness” and the club must have an “open membership”, which means that “access to the club’s facilities must be genuinely available to anyone who wishes to take advantage of them”

The eight head: human rights, conflict resolution or promotion of religious or racial harmony or equality and diversity

  • Political purposes and political activities
  • By seeking a change in the law, or a shift in government policy, or a reversal of a government decision has political purposes and cannot be charity

The ninth head: advancement of environmental protection or improvement

  • Potentially highly political

The tenth head: relief of those in need, by reason of youth, age, ill health, disability, financial hardship, or other disadvantages

  • Statute of Elizabeth 1601 refers to the relief of ‘the aged, the impotent and poor’
  • Joseph Rowntree Memorial Trust Housing Association v Attorney-General: for sale to elderly people

The eleventh head: animal welfare

  • For my faithful hound, Fido
  • Home for lost dogs [Re Douglas] and a trust ‘for animal welfare’ [Re Wedgwood]
  • Swinfen-Eady LJ: “promote and encourage kindness towards [animals], and to ameliorate the condition of the brute creation, and thus to stimulate humane and generous sentiments in man towards the lower animals, and by this means to promote dealings of humanity and thus elevate the human race
  • Re Grove-Grady: “sanctuary” run by anti-vivisectionists and opponents of blood sports failed to attract charitable status, because the animals would be free to molest each other
  • Re Wedgwood: human ways of slaughtering animals was held to be a valid charitable trust for animal welfare
  • National Anti-vivisection Society v IRC: Anti-vivisection charities are liable to clash with the courts’ general refusal to recognize charities established for the political purpose of changing the law of the land
  • Decision of the Charity Commissioners: To promote the reintroduction of wolf into Scotland, the refusal being based principally “to influence the opinion of the public and the decisions of the relevant Government authorities”

The thirteenth head: other existing charitable purposes

  • Scottish Burial Reform and Cremation Society Ltd v Glasgow Corporation: creamtion service

The public benefit requirement under the residual head

  • The Oppenheim personal nexus test applies to the residual head, but we might expect that the residual head would require an even more stringent test of public benefit
  • IRC v Braddeley
  • Williams’ Trustees v IRC
  • Charities Commission website observes that ‘One size won’t fit all, and public benefit will look different for different groups of charities’

Recreational Charities Act 1958

  • The recreational Charities Act 1958: provision of facilities for recreation or other leisure-time occupation to be charitable if the facilities are provided in the interests of social welfare

Political Purposes

  • National Anti-Vivisection
    • Claimed to be “a body of persons established for charitable purposes only”
    • The repeal of the Cruelty to Animals Act 1876 and to see it replaced by an absolute prohibition on vivisection
    • Cannot recognize a political purpose such as this to be charitable; the function of the courts is to implement the will of Parliament, to influence the will of Parliament perhaps, but never to oppose it or to support those who oppose it.
    • Bowman v Secular Society: Generally speaking, it is for the legislature, not the courts, to determine whether a reform of the law will be for the public benefit
    • Wouthwood v Attorney General: a university project to educate the public “in the subject of militarism and disarmament” was denied charitable status; the Court of Appeal held that the project was, in fact, a project to advance the political cause of ‘demilitarization’
    • McGovern v Attorney General: charitable status will also be denied to trusts set up for the purpose of exerting political pressure on foreign legislatures
    • Webb v O’Doherty: Such trusts are presumed to be detrimental to the public interest, because they might sour diplomatic relations with foreign states
      • For this reason student unions are not permitted to use their charitable funds to campaign for an end to the war against Iraq
    • Political Activities and Campaigning by Charities: trust for political purposes is not charitable, it is permissible for a charitable trust to fund political activities ancillary to, and reasonably expected to advance, its charitable purposes