The Jimmy Savile Charitable Trust has failed in a High Court bid to block compensation of £3.6m from the disgraced broadcaster’s estate being paid to 139 of his victims.
A High Court ruling made yesterday rejected the pleas of the charity, which had previously said it would close, to dismiss the compensation scheme and for the charity to replace NatWest as the executors of the estate. The judge will publish full reasons for the decision in the coming weeks.
The trust, registered in 1985, was bequeathed the bulk of Savile’s £4.3m estate after his death in 2011, and had assets of £3.6m according to its accounts for the year to 31 March 2013.
The trust wants to distribute this to charitable causes under its governing document, but those accounts say these will not be distributed "pending clarification of the legal position relating to potential claims against the estate".
Liz Dux, practice group leader at law firm Slater & Gordon, which represents 132 of those victims, said the application of Savile’s estate to the compensation scheme needed approval in the courts because the estate was "likely to become insolvent".
Dux said the charity "has caused a lot of unnecessary cost for all. The scheme could have been approved by a court in two hours." Instead, she said, it took six QCs three days, which means the estate’s value is likely to have decreased because of the costs of proceedings.
The maximum compensation handed out to each victim will be £60,000. The BBC and the NHS have also agreed to support the scheme.
The charity did not respond to a request for comment. It, and another charity bearing Savile’s name – the Jimmy Savile Stoke Mandeville Hospital Trust – said in October 2012 that they would close, saying their continued existence was "potentially damaging to the charitable beneficiaries and the vital work they do".
The assets of both charities were due to be distributed to other charitable causes, trustees said in 2012, but the recipients would remain anonymous.
The Stoke Mandeville charity was removed from the Charity Commission’s register in November. The Jimmy Savile Charitable Trust is still registered, although its most recent annual accounts acknowledge that it is due to close.
A NatWest spokesman said it could not comment on the proceedings, but would "continue to do everything possible to support a resolution that is in the interest of all parties".
Alan Collins, principal lawyer at Slater & Gordon, said he was not entirely sure why the charity felt it was entitled to the money. "My interpretation, which they may not agree with, is that these cases ought to be defended, that they go back many years, that some cases are spurious and that they should be thrashed out in the court – but that is rather unrealistic," he said. "For reasons that are not clear, the charity wanted the money."