Last month, we wrote about the apparent pervasiveness of sex abuse going on within the walls of the British Broadcasting Corporation. Last week, the latest confirmation of the extent of the issue was broadcast across Pennsylvania and the rest of the world when police investigators announced that they had confirmed that BBC personality Jimmy Savile had committed sexual abuse on an unprecedented scale during the 1970s and 80s.
According to authorities, Savile abused individuals between the ages of 8 and 47 some 214 times. The report says that, occasionally, the offences occurred within the walls of hospitals where Savile performed volunteer work. But apparently, more often, they happened at the BBC. He earned a knighthood for his public good works and was declared a national treasure.
Savile died in 2011, at the age of 84. That means, sadly, that he will never be held criminally accountable for the emotional and physical scars he inflicted on his victims. As part of the news conference by police last week, officials apologized for not having taken allegations of sexual abuse that were made against Savile when he was alive more seriously. They said they hoped that their admission of oversight now would provide some sense of closure.
Perhaps that will be the case, but it's hard to imagine how it could be. Still, the fact that Savile is now dead does beg the question as to what avenues exist for victims to seek justice. The answer rests in civil court. But legal pundits note that victory in making such claims may not be a slam dunk.
Under British law and in many U.S. jurisdictions, such claims are handled as personal injury claims. Normally, that would require that claims be filed within a three-year statute of limitations. This is something we've noted in our posts before. However, as we've also noted, there can be exceptions to those limits in Pennsylvania. And British law appears to be adopting similar flexibility.
All that said, it would seem to appear that organizations at which some of the alleged abuse took place could be targets of claims under a theory of vicarious liability. Such a claim would likely require nuanced construction by experienced legal counsel.
Source: BBC News, "Jimmy Savile scandal: What legal redress for abuse victims?," Clive Coleman, Jan. 11, 2013
- The matters discussed in this blog are those dealt with by our firm. To learn more about our practice, readers can visit our Pennsylvania sexual abuse page.