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Jimmy Savile charity raises fraud concerns over compensation scheme

Trustees of charity argue at court of appeal that scheme approved by high court lacks process of evaluation of claims
  • The Guardian, Tuesday 4 November 2014 13.30 GMT
Jimmy Savile
Jimmy Savile, who died in October 2011. Photograph: PA
Some women are likely to make fraudulent claims about being sexually abused by Jimmy Savile, appeal judges have been told.
Trustees of a charity that is the major beneficiary of Savile’s estate told the court of appeal that compensation claims had to be scrutinised. They said they had concerns about a compensation scheme agreed between the executor of Savile’s estate – NatWest bank – and lawyers representing alleged victims.
This year a high court judge approved the compensation scheme set up for victims of Savile, who died in October 2011 aged 84, despite objections from the Jimmy Savile Charitable Trust. Mr Justice Sales sanctioned the scheme following a high court hearing in London in February. He also refused to order the NatWest bank to be replaced as executor.
The Jimmy Savile Charitable Trust wants the court of appeal to overturn Sales’ decisions.
Sales heard that Savile had been the subject of an ITV television programme broadcast in October 2012. The judge said Savile, who worked at the BBC, had been accused of being a serial child abuser and sex offender.
He said that following the broadcast a large number of people came forward to make claims that they had been abused by Savile. The judge described the compensation scheme as a “sensible and pragmatic” attempt at solving a “complex situation”. He said the scheme would allow for “sufficient objective scrutiny” of the merits of compensation claims.
Sales said about 140 people had intimated to the bank that they had personal injury claims against Savile and his estate in relation to sexual abuse. He said there had also been indications of claims against other organisations Savile had been associated with – the BBC, a number of NHS hospital trusts and the charities Barnardo’s and Mind. Lawyers say the number of people intending to make claims has now risen to more than 160.
Experts initially put the value of Savile’s estate at around £4m. But Sales said a range of expenses had been incurred and the estate’s value had been reduced to about £3.3m.
Robert Ham QC, for the Jimmy Savile Charitable Trust, said the compensation scheme agreed did not assess the validity of claimants. He said it lacked a “process of evaluation”.
“It describes itself as a scheme to provide compensation,” Ham told appeal judges. “It doesn’t describe itself as a scheme to scrutinise and assess claims.
“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.”
Ham said NatWest had misunderstood its duties as executor of Savile’s estate. He said the bank regarded itself as a middle man when it should be a “defendant”, preserving assets for beneficiaries who were entitled to them.
The appeal hearing is expected to conclude on Wednesday

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