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Call to scrutinise Savile claims

Some women are likely to make fraudulent claims about being sexually abused by television personality Jimmy Savile, appeal judges have been told.

Trustees of a charity which is the major beneficiary of Savile's estate today told the Court of Appeal that compensation claims had to be scrutinised.

And they said they had concerns about a compensation scheme agreed between the executor of Savile's estate - the NatWest bank - and lawyers representing alleged victims.

Earlier 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 Mr Justice Sales' decisions.

Three appeal judges today began to analyse legal argument at a hearing in London.

The hearing is expected to end tomorrow.

Mr Justice 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'' - and was alleged to have abused people in hospitals.

He said following the broadcast a ''large number'' of people had come forward to make claims that they were abused by Savile.

The judge had 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.

Mr Justice 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 had initially put the value of Savile's estate at around £4 million.

But Mr Justice Sales said a ''range of expenses'' had been incurred and the estate's value had been reduced to about £3.3 million.

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," Mr Ham told appeal judges. "It doesn't describe itself as a scheme to scrutinise and assess claims."

He added: "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."

And Mr Ham said the 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.

Mr Ham told appeal judges Lord Justice Patten, Lady Justice Gloster and Lord Justice Bean that the Jimmy Savile Charitable Trust was a registered charity which had "general charitable aims" - including the "relief of poverty" and the "relief of sickness".

He said neither the trust nor the trustees were "in any way" implicated in allegations made against Savile.

"It would not be right to regard the trust as in any sense the alter ego of Jimmy Savile," he said. "It is simply a beneficiary of his will."

Lord Justice Patten said the appeal court had received a letter from regulator the Charity Commission. He said the commission had concerns about "charitable funds" being "diverted to the costs of litigation".

Mr Ham told the court that the commission had been informed of developments in the litigation.

Lawyers representing alleged victims fear that further litigation might run up costs which will eat into money available for compensation.

Mr Justice Sales had told alleged victims that they would not be out of pocket as a result of the High Court fight.

He ruled that because the trust had lost the High Court battle it should foot legal bills - totalling more than £250,000 - run up by alleged victims and the bank.

The appeal hearing continues.

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