Savile abuse victims in Britain to sue for damages

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 01, 2012 11:00 AM
Savile abuse victims in Britain to sue for damages

LONDON (Reuters) - The people who were sexually abused in their youth by one of the BBC's most celebrated TV stars will sue the state-funded broadcaster and Jimmy Savile's estate, a lawyer representing some of the victims said on Thursday.

The abuse claims against the late Savile, described by police as one of Britain's most prolific sex offenders, have sullied the reputation of the BBC and thrown the jobs of its current and former boss into doubt.

Hundreds of victims have come forward in the scandal which casts Savile, a cigar-chomping DJ turned television star feted by royalty and politicians, as a pedophile who raped or groped children on BBC property.

"Certainly one is going to sue the BBC and all are going to be suing the estate," Alan Collins, a lawyer representing 12 Savile victims, told Reuters by telephone.

"If Savile did things in his capacity as a BBC employee then the employer, the BBC, is potentially liable," said Collins, though he said the main objective for most victims was to obtain recognition of the abuse.

Savile died last year at the age of 84.

Legal action against the BBC could would further undermine the position of Director General George Entwistle, who has been lampooned by the local media as "baffled, bumbling and clueless" for his perceived poor handling of the worst crisis in the corporation's 90-year history.

Questions have also been raised about Entwistle's predecessor, Mark Thompson, who is set to take over at the New York Times Co.

Prime Minister David Cameron has said the sex abuse allegations leave the BBC and other institutions with serious questions that they must answer.

Lawyers representing some of the male and female victims, some of whom were as young as eight when the abuse occurred, said their clients had indicated an organized pedophile ring involving other celebrities had existed at the BBC during the height of Savile's fame in the 1970s and 80s.

A spokeswoman for the BBC declined immediate comment.

In a sign of preparation for claims, the Financial Times reported that Savile's 4.3 million pound ($6.93 million) estate has been frozen in response to the allegations.

Such abuse claims often secure relatively small amounts of compensation, said Collins, who specializes in personal injury cases.

"Damages for these sorts of cases are notoriously low," he said, quoting average figures for his own cases of around 30,000 to 35,000 pounds. "People would be quite shocked about how low damages are in the UK for this sort of thing."

(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; editing by Mark Heinrich)