London Appeal Court judges have begun analysing legal arguments over a compensation scheme set up for victims of Jimmy Savile, who died in October 2011 aged 84.
The Court of Appeal was told by trustees of one charity, which is a major beneficiary of Savile’s estate, that compensation claims had to be scrutinised. Explaining that they had concerns about the compensation scheme drawn-up between the executor of Savile’s estate (NatWest Bank) and the lawyers representing the alleged victims.
This follows an earlier High Court ruling in February where the judge, Mr. Justice Sales approved the compensation scheme set-up for victims of Savile, in the face of objections from the Jimmy Savile Charitable Trust. He also would not replace NatWest bank as executor.
The Jimmy Savile Charitable Trust is asking the Court of Appeal to overturn Mr. Justice Sales’ decision. Accordingly three Appeal Court judges have begun analysing legal arguments at a hearing in London.
Mr. Justice Sales had heard that Savile was the subject of an ITV programme broadcast in October 2012.
Judge Sales said Savile, having worked at the BBC, had been accused of being a “serial child abuser and sex offender” – and was also allegedly regularly abusing people in NHS hospitals.
He said following the broadcast a “large number” of people had come forward making claims of abuse by Savile.
Sales described the compensation scheme as a “sensible and pragmatic” attempt in solving a “complex situation”.
He went on to say that the scheme would allow for “sufficient objective scrutiny” of the merits of the compensation claims. Sales was reported to have said that approximately 140 people had “intimated to the bank” that there were personal injury claims against Savile and his estate in relation to sexual abuse.
Additionally Mr. Justice Sales said there had also been indications of claims against other organisations that Savile had been associated with – the BBC, a number of NHS hospital trusts and the charities Bernado’s and Mind.
The number of people with an intention to make claims has now risen to more than 160 according to the lawyers.
The value of Savile’s estate is around £4 million based on the experts’ opinion. However Mr. Justice Sales has reckoned that a “range of expenses” has already been incurred which means that the value of the estate has decreased to some £3.3 million.
Robert Ham QC, acting for the Jimmy Savile Charitable Trust, said the compensation scheme did not have the mechanism to sufficiently assess the “validity” of claimants. He reasoned that it lacked a “process of evaluation”.
“It describes itself as a scheme to provide compensation,” Mr. Ham said to Appeal judges. “It doesn’t describe itself as a scheme to scrutinise and assess claims.”
He added that: “As a matter of common sense these sort of situations are likely to attract numbers of fraudulent claims. One certainly cannot proceed on the basis that the claims are valid- or even presumptively valid.”
Mr. Ham said that NatWest “misunderstood” its duties in being the executor of Savile’s estate.
The bank regarded itself as a “middle man” although it should be a “defendant” in preserving the assets of beneficiaries who were entitled to them.
Mr. Ham told Lord Justice Pattern, Lady Justice Gloster and Lord Justice Bean, appeal judges, that the Jimmy Savile Charitable Trust was a registered charity which had “general charitable aims”- to include the “relief of poverty” and the “relief of sickness”.
Mr. Ham stated neither the trust nor trustees were “in any way” implicated in allegations made against Savile.
“It would not be right to regard the trust as in any sense the alter ego of Jimmy Savile,” he claimed. “It is simply a beneficiary of his will.”
The appeal court had received a letter from the regulator of the Charity Commission said Lord Justice Pattern. Stating that the commission had concerns about “charitable funds” being “diverted to the costs of litigation”.
Mr. Ham told the court the commission had been informed of developments in litigation.
Lawyers responsible for the representation of alleged victims are in fear that further litigation has the potential to run up costs, which will simply eat into the money available for potential compensation.
Mr. Justice Sales told alleged victims that they would not be out of pocket resulting from the High Court fight.
It has been ruled that because the trust lost the High Court battle it should have to foot legal bills- conclusively a sum of over £250, 000 – run up by alleged victims and the bank.
The appeal hearing continues.
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Kent – Kent Compensation – http://www.kentcompensation.com/
Essex – Blackwater Law – http://blackwaterlaw.co.uk/