Tuesday 11 March 2014

UK: England and Wales: friendly society officers not validly appointed

Judgment was given yesterday by the Court of Appeal in Speechley v Allott [2014] EWCA Civ 230. One of the issues for the court to consider was whether several officers of a friendly society had been validly appointed. The rules of the society required them to be elected by ballot but they had been elected by acclamation or show of hands. At first instance the trial judge found this to be a failure of form, and not of substance, and held the elections valid. The Court of Appeal disagreed, Lord Justice Lewison stating (at para. [50]):
Although the judge placed reliance on the fact that the election was unanimous, unanimity is easier to achieve in an open election than in a secret ballot. It is of itself a reason why it is important that elections be conducted by ballot rather than by acclamation or show of hands in an open meeting. Moreover, since there had been no opportunity given to the members to nominate alternative candidates, the mere fact that those who had been proposed and seconded were unanimously elected is not of great weight. I cannot therefore agree with the judge either that adequate notice of the business to be transacted at the meeting was given, or that the irregularities were mere matters of form. It follows from this that the President and the Treasurer were not validly elected."

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