Thursday, 4 October 2012

Allegations against the late Sir Jimmy Savile


22nd April 2014 - The Guardian - Newspapers run ads telling Jimmy Savile victims how to claim

A compensation scheme was approved following a ruling at the high court in February (Judgment).  Mr Justice Sales sanctioned the scheme after agreement between NatWest, the executor of Savile's estate, lawyers representing Savile's alleged victims, the NHS and the BBC.  He described the compensation scheme as a sensible and pragmatic attempt at solving a complex situation, and also approved the publishing of the newspaper advertisements.

14th January 2013 - Giving Victims a Voice - a report issued jointly by the Metropolitan Police and the NSPCC.

1st November - Two articles in The Solicitors Journal - Could Jimmy Savile's employers be liable for his actions ... and ...  Jimmy Savile's victims still have serious obstacles to overcome

The first of these articles has a reference to the decision of MacKayJ in XVW and YZA v Gravesend Grammar School for Girls [2012] EWHC 575 (QB)

12th October - BBC to launch inquiries

Original Post:

On 3rd October, ITV broadcast a programme - "Exposed: The other side of Jimmy Savile."  The programme may be viewed until 23rd October.

"Jimmy" Savile (1926-2011) - full name James Wilson Vincent Savile, was a show business personality who devoted much of his efforts to raising some £40 million for varous charities and good causes.  He was also noted as being the first presenter of Top of the Pops and for his Clunk-Click Every Trip advertisement relating to the wearing of seat belts and for other programmes such as Jim'll fix it.

In essence, the programme contains allegations that Savile was a serial sex offender against teenage girls with a considerable number of the girls being under age 16.    At times when these alleged offences occurred, Savile was considerably older than the girls in question.  The programme further alleges that sexual activity between girls and Savile took place on BBC (and other) premises.  Further, it was alleged that Savile had relations with girls who were at an approved school "Duncroft" and that, at least in one instance, staff there knew of the allegations.  Ian Glen QC appears on the programme and commented that whilst Savile's side of all of this cannot now be heard, the information from those women interviewed by the programme researcher would constitute reasonable grounds for suspicion and would justify the arrest of Savile if he were still alive.  It is also known that Savile was interviewed under caution by Surrey Police in 2007 but no action was taken against him.

Savile was honoured with the OBE in 1972 and Knighted in 1970.  He received a Papal Knighthood the same year.  He was awarded Honorary LLD by Leeds University in 1986 and was a Freeman of Scarborough where he is buried.

In late September, as allegations against Savile began to surface, the BBC claimed to have no records of allegations or misconduct.  The BBC has since said that it will assist any Police inquiry - (The Guardian 2nd October).

The allegations could bring into play some interesting aspects of law.

English criminal law does not permit criminal proceedings against deceased persons though it is reported that a historic allegation of rape was made on 1st October and that this has been referred to the Metropolitan Police - BBC 2nd October.   See also The Guardian 4th October - Jimmy Savile "Met to lead sexual abuse complaints investigation."  Criminal charges might lie against individuals (if still alive) alleged to have assisted Savile in some way.

Today, the majority of sexual offences are defined in the Sexual Offences Act 2003 but criminal conduct has to be judged according to the law as it stood at the time of the conduct.  In the 1960s and 70s it was the Sexual Offences Act 1956 which principally applied but other legislation existed such as the Indecency with Children Act 1960.  The 2003 Act came into force from 1st May 2004.  For an interesting case arising from the government's failure to make transitional provisions see R v C [2005] EWCA Crim 3533 where Rose LJ commented - "If a history of criminal legislation ever comes to be written it is unlikely that 2003 will be identified as a year of exemplary skill in the annals of Parliamentary drafting."

Civil actions - in tort - might be be considered.  An assault  (e.g. common assault, indecent assault, rape) is an intentional tort and, if the individual committing the assault is still alive, would be actionable in civil proceedings as trespass against the person.  Where the individual is dead, the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1934 comes into play and enables a cause of action to survive against the tortfeasor's estate.  However. actions in tort are subject to rules about limitation designed to prevent stale actions  see Limitation Act 1980 and the Law Commission report Limitation of Actions Law Com No.270 (9th July 2001).  Limitation is not a simple area of law and sound legal advice is needed.  If a cause of action is out of time then clearly it cannot subsist for the purposes of the 1934 Act.

Other possibilities come to mind such as an action against any "organisation" which had utilised Savile's services.  Such an action might be framed in vicarious liability of the organisation for any tort committed by Savile.  This is a developing and difficult area and was discussed earlier this year in two posts of 16th January and 18th July.  Alternatively, a claimant might consider whether any such organisation had its own tortious liability - perhaps in negligence.  Did the organisation have a duty of care to protect young girls on the premises if perhaps senior officials of the organisation were aware of a particular person's activities or tendencies?  If so, legal liability of the organisation itself might arise due to failure to take action with the result that young girls were assaulted in some way.  However, see the BBC Director-General's email to staff which states that nothing has been found "at this stage to suggest any known wrongdoing was ignored by management."

In the area of Child Protection, the law has come a long way since the 1960s and 70s.  On this see NSPCC Factsheet May 2012 - An introduction to child protection legislation in the UK.

All of these matters present considerable legal difficulties.

As a recipient of Honours (Knighthood and OBE) there is also the possibility that the Crown could remove them.   At least, I think this is possible even if it is highly unusual to remove honours posthumously.  An attempt to raise an e-petition to that effect has been rejected.  Before doing this, the Honours Committee (the workings of which are somewhat mysterious) would require sufficient proof of the truth of the allegations.  (Note 10th October - it appears that these honours only existed for the lifetime of the recipient and have therefore ceased in any event - see the view expressed in The Guardian 10th October).

The outcome of any Police investigation is therefore to be awaited with interest though one wonders just how much time and effort they will put into this matter.  On 3rd October, Joshua Rozenberg wrote in The Guardian:

"Scotland Yard is now facing something of a dilemma. It is too late for Savile to be prosecuted. The police would be accused of wasting scarce resources if they conducted detailed investigations into allegations against a defendant who is no longer able to stand trial.

On the other hand, people want to know whether these allegations can be substantiated. The police would be performing a valuable public service by collecting the available evidence.

In my view, the police need to investigate whether there is evidence against anyone else who might be charged in connection with these allegations. To some extent, that requires detectives to make inquiries into the claims against Savile himself. But that is as far as it should go."



National Association for People Abused in Childhood

An introduction to child protection legislation in the UK


  1. An article (with links etc.) discussing many of the allegations against Savile is here.

  2. Is it safe to mention Freddie Starr?

    1. The most recent media report is this. At the moment, I have no plans to cover all of this further. May return to it if some other legal issues arise.