LONDON (AP) — A decision by Jimmy Savile's executors to freeze his estate has cleared the way for a host of financial claims against the late entertainer, alleged to be one of Britain's most prolific child sex abusers.
National Westminster Bank said Thursday it has frozen his considerable assets to make it easier for possible victims to get financial settlements.
The bank gave few details, citing confidentiality rules, but victims' lawyers welcomed the decision, which means Savile's estate will be kept intact while claims are pursued.
"It's what they needed to do," said lawyer Alan Collins, who represents 12 women who say they were abused by Savile in the 1960s and 1970s. "Obviously it's welcome news, otherwise you would have to go to court to get a freezing order. This makes it easier."
He said that under British law it will be possible for Savile's alleged victims to seek financial compensation based on pain and suffering even though he has died.
Savile was a popular television host of children's programs in Britain and the long-running "Top of the Pops" music show. His reputation has been shattered in the last month as dozens of women have come forward to assert he had abused them over several decades.
Police say Savile and others linked to him may have abused some 300 victims. He died last year at the age of 84.
Savile's estate is reportedly worth 4.3 million pounds ($6.9 million). He left much of it to a charitable trust.
Georgina Calvert-Lee, a lawyer with the firm AO Advocates that specializes in child abuse that happened years ago, said women who claim to have been abused by Savile will be able to bring civil cases forward, even though the suspected abuse happened decades ago.
Many crimes have a three-year statute of limitations, but that doesn't apply to child sex abuse cases because of a 2008 ruling by Britain's top court, she said.
"They decided the strict framework was not appropriate for dealing with child abuse because the nature of the damage is insidious. It causes damage for years, and people often don't come forward until much later," she said.
It will be up to victims and their lawyers to persuade trial judges to let the older cases go forward based on the evidence, she said. That may be easier for allegations involving Savile, she said, because so many potential victims have spoken to police, lending credence to their claims.
Damages would be based on the severity of the psychological and physical trauma, she said, and in some cases would be expanded to include lost earnings.
Calvert-Lee said it is also possible that some alleged victims may choose to seek damages from the BBC, Savile's main employer, by arguing that his alleged abuse was connected to his work, and that he wouldn't have had access to his victims if he didn't work at the national broadcaster.
The BBC has been heavily criticized for failing to act against Savile despite persistent rumors of sex abuse on BBC premises.
Several inquiries are under way, and financial claims against Savile's estate are likely to multiply. Collins said the number of alleged victims he represents is "12 and rising."
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