Ruth Mitchell

Member Article

Illegal Contracts

With Watson Burton LLP Law FirmA criminal case, with Hollywood style facts, has recently highlighted the issue of the enforceability, or in this case, non-enforceability, of contractual rights.It was a case that concerned a man and a woman who met in a hospital while both being treated for mental health problems. Mrs Ryder had been admitted to the hospital after attempting suicide and confessed to Mr Reeves that she still wished to end her own life and asked him to arrange for a hit man to kill her.Mr Reeves agreed to do so and said it would cost Mrs Ryder £2,500 which she promptly paid to him. Over the course of about six months, having made various ‘arrangements’ to have Mrs Ryder killed in a drive-by shooting, which of course did not happen, and defrauding Mrs Ryder of £17,500 in the process, it came to light that Mr Reeves had no intention of arranging to have Mrs Ryder killed.Mr Reeves even told Mrs Ryder at one point that the cost of the killing had gone up as he had killed the actual hit man and would have to undertake the killing himself! Mr Reeves had justified his sudden liquidity to his wife by telling her that he had won money on a scratch card and also benefited from a maturing insurance policy and an ISA.Mr Reeves was found guilty of deception at a criminal trial, given a sentence of 15 months and ordered to pay Mrs Ryder compensation of the £2,000 which he had been saving up to pay her back. Unfortunately for Mrs Ryder it is unlikely that she will ever see the remaining £18,000 that she paid over to Mr Reeves. It is impossible, in law, to enforce a contract which is in itself illegal, meaning that Mrs Ryder will be unable to sue Mr Reeves for the recovery of the full amount paid to him during their negotiations. The arrangement made between Mr Reeves & Mrs Ryder could not even be rightly called a contract, which is defined by its enforceability.Although the facts of this matter are pretty far fetched and unlikely to apply to anyone reading this, it does highlight the importance of ensuring the legality and enforceability of any contract to be entered into before handing over any money!Rachael Douthwaite and Mark Heath are lawyers in the Commercial Fraud Team at Watson Burton LLP. If you have any questions about this article, please contact Rachael Douthwaite at

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Ruth Mitchell .

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