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Feeding Time at the Legal Zoo.

It started with a lie; a false allegation; a mendacity, a calumny, a canard. However you dress it up, it simply wasn’t true.
40 year-old Georgina Ray decided that the only possible reason as to why God should have chosen to burden her passage through life with the appearance of a bleached and careworn Yorkshire miner/nightclub bouncer with a broken nose, was that Jimmy Savile was indeed her Father.
Sadly for Georgina, it transpired that her appearance was merely God’s warped sense of humour, and nothing to do with Jimmy Savile. However, Georgina’s understandable belief that genetics might be responsible for her woes was enough to stay the hand of Jimmy Savile’s executors from handing over the £4.3 million that he had left to a selection of charities – ironically including at least one that specialised in providing support for victims of abuse.
Savile’s family, already beset by a million wild theories merrily flaunted in the media that he had been responsible for every unsolved crime since Jack the Ripper, were understandably in two minds about agreeing to hand over his DNA for forensic testing. DNA results can be unclear – what if they were merely making the situation worse? In the event, they did hand over his DNA – and the Georgina Ray claim was shown to be false. Savile’s DNA was checked against a host of heinous murders, robberies, rapes, child abductions, crop circles, missing aircraft, alien sightings, and lost elections and to the great disappointment of the media, it was shown that he was responsible for none of them.
However, whilst that false claim was investigated, the firm of Slater & Gordon were happy to announce that they had ‘hundreds’ of other plaintive plaintiffs queuing up to take their shot at the estate.  A policeman stood on the steps outside the NSPCC offices to claim that Savile ‘spent every waking minute of the day’ planning further paedophilic adventures. Liz Dux stood with open arms ready to welcome those for whom a share of the monies intended for charity was the only thing that could put right the wrong that had been done to them. The sort of money that could buy you a south coast seaside caravan to wipe away the memories of the abuse you said you suffered at the hands of Savile in, er, a south coast seaside caravan.
Slater & Gordon’s share price soared as investors calculated the value of the ‘work in progress’ – the value of acting for the ‘thousands’ that were now beating a path to the media claiming to have been abused by Savile.  Other firms of solicitors happily accepted Slater & Gordon shares in return for their business assets, only too willing to give up a lifetime’s hard work in return for a share of these fabled profits.
By the time of the first court case for lawyers to squabble over the estate, it had already been whittled down to £3.6 million. £700,000 had mysteriously disappeared in ‘expenses’. Those expenses had nothing to do with compensation for any claimants, nor with payments to any charities; they had vanished in the course of some perfectly legal transaction between the Executors – Nat West Bank and Osborne Clarke, the solicitors they had hired to ‘advise’ them. It would presumably have included the £70,000 expended on Savile’s funeral – as befitted a wealthy man lauded by the nation for his charitable fund raising.
Soon the claimants, none of who had spoken up before, were claiming that this sum ‘deprived them of possible compensation’. Fortunately there is an ancient piece of medieval law which allows ‘for the coffin, ringing the bell, and the fees of the parson, clerk and bearers; but not for the pall or ornaments.’
One of the ornaments on the grave turned out to have been placed there by a ‘lady’ related to Savile, whose own children claimed that she hadn’t met him until some 30 years after she claimed he had abused her…
Neither Nat West nor Osborne Clarke was prepared to discuss the matter with the ‘beneficiaries’ – the trustees of the charities. 
Since Nat West made a statement on Thursday, no doubt after a firm prod from their public relations advisors, that they would not, had not, taken any fees from the Savile estate for acting as executors, that leaves the finger pointing at Osborne Clarke as being the recipients of a no doubt totally justifiable 16% of the available ‘trough’. They had only just got started…
I say ‘no doubt totally justifiable’ because in fairness (and in secrecy) Osborne Clarke have been dragged kicking and screaming into the world of ‘scrutinising claims’. Whilst it might have appeared to the outside world that they were prepared to hand out money from the estate to anybody, anywhere, on production of a wild and sufficiently lurid allegation, they did agree to use a wide circle of qualified individuals – ie those who were actually there at the times of alleged assaults, as opposed to keyboard warriors – to determine which claims could not possibly be true. 
It’s not lipstick you see on my face; Ms Raccoon’s lips have been hermetically sealed with oxblood legal sealing wax, stamped with the mark of what became a number of lawyers acting for claimants. 

Of the 200 or so people bringing claims against Savile’s estate, more than 170 are represented by the law firm Slater and Gordon.

Justice Sales, at one hearing said:

I emphasised to all parties the importance of trying to minimise the costs of resolution of disputes in respect of the various claims, so as to avoid what counsel had described as ‘a feeding frenzy for the lawyers’ and to preserve as much of the money in the estate as possible to meet the claims of those with entitlements in respect of it.

Feeding frenzy was an apt description of what was occurring. At one hearing there were no less than 17 barristers and juniors present, representing the BBC, the NHS, the claimants via 10 different firms of PI lawyers, and lastly, the trustees, fighting for the money that should have gone to charity.
I value the roof over my head, so sadly I cannot tell you which of the weirdly imaginative claims have bit the dust along the way.  I have had to learn the art of keeping quiet even when blog posts that would have written themselves have arrived on my doorstep. Grrr!
I have had to keep quiet since last Thursday too; Up until then, all the dealings between the lawyers for the claimants, and the lawyers for the Nat West have been conducted under a cloak of total secrecy. On Wednesday, the Trustees for the Savile Charity received an e-mail from Mr Justice Warren indicating that it would be ‘helpful’ if they could attend the final hearing on Thursday. This was a new development – they have been barred from previous hearing as ‘having no standing’.  They were assured that ‘this’ hearing would be public. I can’t possibly imagine how this information reached the ears of James Gillespie on the Sunday Times, some mysterious alchemy no doubt.
It meant that after some argy-bargy between barristers and the judge, it was ruled that he could remain. Justice must be seen to be open above all…
So, we now have his excellent report in today’s Sunday Times detailing the expenses incurred by the ‘legal feeding frenzy‘. I commend it to you. If you don’t happen to have a copy of the Sunday Times, I shall spell it out for you…
The hearing on Thursday – lasting a matter of two hours, cost £61,000.
The estate has now been whittled down to £2,042,000 from £4,300,000.
Osborne Clarke have received £1,800,000.
Only 78 cases remain from the ‘hundreds of abused victims’ – the 78 are merely those where no one could disprove the claim. They said they were in ‘x’ spot in ‘y’ year when ‘z’ occurred at the hands of Jimmy Savile and there is no evidence to show that either Savile was elsewhere, or the claimant hadn’t been born yet, or the premises didn’t exist at that time, or any of the other myriad ways in which claims have been dismissed.
The lawyers, the ten different firms representing these ‘can’t be disproved’ claims will share £689,000. A poke in the eye with a sharp stick for those whose share price is dependant on a healthy ‘work in progress’ estimate….
The 78 ‘victims of alleged abuse’ will receive an average £13,000.
The total legal bill of £2,500,000 is more than double the combined £1,033,000 shared out amongst the claimants. All 78 of them.
That leaves just £141,000. No, that won’t be going to Help the Heroes, or abuse charities, or any of the other causes Savile fundraised for.
It will be split between the BBC, NHS and Barnardos to defray their legal expenses. Less than 50,000 grand a piece.
One fraudulent claim – Georgina Ray’s – and over £3 million quid goes up in legal smoke…

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