Savile investigations; a precursor to civil claims and the hunt for liability

General - Interesting Topics

There are numerous ongoing investigations into the late BBC presenter, Jimmy Savile and the BBC’s handling of allegations of sexual abuse by the television presenter . These include the BBC’s own internal investigations, a Scotland Yard criminal investigation and that of Alan Collins of Panones solicitors who is attempting to establish civil suits for a number of possible claimants.

One can be forgiven for asking why the focus of all the media attention surrounding Savile has been dumped on the BBC when the actual allegations of numerous acts of sexual abuse are those committed by an individual. Well, it would appear, according to The Guardian, there were internal rumours and suspicions within the BBC from as early as the 1960s that should have raised alarm bells and prompted investigation. What further compounds the media focus on the BBC is their decision to shelve a Newsnight investigation film into these allegations, possibly, as Panorama suggests, because of a potential clash with tribute programmes following the presenter’s death in October 2011.

So, what is the link between these investigations, the proposed civil claims and the BBC? It is possible the investigations could set the BBC up as an appropriate defendant for the ensuing civil claims and provide a wealth of supportive evidence for the claimants.

Let us explain; the BBC would make a very good defendant for these civil claims, not least of all because they have deep pockets to satisfy vast amounts of damages. They are also a huge institution and will be under a great deal of scrutiny and pressure to ‘act appropriately’ and bow to public opinion and pressure, possibly settling claims swiftly in order to escape a further media bashing. Lawyers considering an action on behalf of potential claimants will be well aware of this and the tactical benefits of promoting and directing investigations into the BBC as they could uncover issues of culpability on their part for the actions of Savile, saving costs for the claimants and lawyers in carrying out their own investigations.

It is also worth considering that some liability may attach to a number of private hospitals and NHS Trusts. It has been reported that Savile was, for reasons that are unclear, given unprecedented access to areas of the Stoke Mandeville Hospital, where he kept a private residence, Broadmoor secure psychiatric hospital and Leeds General Hospital, where he worked for a while as a volunteer porter. It is possible that these hospitals breached the duty of care owed to patients by allowing Savile unsupervised access to them, leading to circumstances where some claim they were subject to sexual abuse.

At this stage, only speculation as to the basis of these claims is possible. The identity of the defendant is uncertain and the allegations are unfounded as the claims are in their infancy. However, what is becoming clear through the current media focus is that uniquely the BBC is currently in the crosshair of the claimant’s lawyers!

All information is correct on the date of posting.