A GRANDSON of artist and art collector Sir Francis Cook has failed in his latest bid to secure recompense for paintings he claimed were part of a fraud in which the baron’s seventh wife, Brenda, Lady Cook, played a part.
Richard Cook asked the Court of Appeal to overturn a decision of the Royal Court upholding the Judicial Greffier’s decision to throw out his claims against Lady Cook’s executors and a former trustee of a Jersey Trust.
In April last year, the Judicial Greffier gave summary judgment in favour of executors Michael Henry Clapham and Andrew David Le Cheminant, and the former Fine Art Fund trustee, Leslie Rufus Crapp, deciding that Mr Cook’s case did not warrant trial before the Royal Court.
That decision was upheld on appeal to the Royal Court by Commissioner Sir William Bailhache following a two-day hearing in September last year, prompting Mr Cook to ask leave from the Court of Appeal to appeal again.
Sitting this month as a single judge, George Bompas KC said: ‘In my judgment the appellant is to be refused leave to appeal; his proposed appeal has no real prospect of success and there is otherwise no good reason for it to be heard. In short, there was an unexceptionable decision by the Royal Court refusing him leave to amend his order of justice and granting summary judgment against him as he has no case to go to trial.’
Mr Cook’s complaints related to the affairs of Sir Francis Cook, who died in 1978, and his widow, Lady Cook, who died on 25 November 2018, and in particular to the ownership of collections of pictures.
Mr Cook argued that valuable paintings – details of which remained imprecise throughout the case but included, at different points in the litigation, works by Sir Joshua Reynolds and Albrecht Dürer – which previously belonged to Sir Francis, or to UK trusts which he established, ultimately belonged to a Jersey trust but were then improperly disposed of.
Reviewing the case, Mr Bompas said that an order of justice which Mr Cook tried to amend during the course of proceedings was ‘not easy to follow’. ‘However,’ he said, ‘liberally distributed throughout were allegations of dishonesty on the part of Lady Cook and the third respondent.
Although he subsequently withdrew those allegations, Mr Cook repeated them after Sir William had circulated his judgment in draft, following the hearing last September.
Mr Bompas noted that, prior to the delivery of his own judgment earlier this month, Mr Cook had again sent the court an email containing more than eight typed pages ‘repeating at length arguments already made before the Royal Court in support of his opposition to the summary judgment application’.
He said that, applying the tests of whether the case had ‘a real as opposed to a fanciful prospect of success’ or whether it raised ‘an important issue in which a decision of the Court of Appeal would be to the public advantage’, the application for leave to appeal should be refused.