Who is liable for the abuse perpetrated by Jimmy Saville?

Posted by Malcolm Johnson on

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We now hear that allegations are beginning to surface from two major hospitals, Stoke Mandeville and Leeds General Infirmary.  It appears that Mr Saville's involvement with these hospitals began as a hospital porter, but later he became a regular visitor and even given his own room at Stoke Mandeville Hospital.

As a major fundraiser, he was essentially made very welcome by hospital staff. A claim against either hospital trust would probably start off as a negligence claim, insofar as it might be alleged they knew or should have known about Mr Saville's activities.  A claim based on vicarious liability would be more difficult because Mr Saville does not appear to have been an employee of either trust, and as a hospital porter, his job would not have necessarily involved looking after children. There has to be some connection between the employee's work and the abuse that he perpetrates.

Nonetheless Mr Saville was a volunteer, involved in particular with children. This raises the difficult issue of whether a charity or hospital might be liable for the activities of volunteers. At first sight, it seem unfair to impose liability on an organisation in such circumstances, but on the other hand, volunteers are very much a part of the charitable scene. We see them working in hospitals and schools. Local authorities make extensive use of charities or "the voluntary sector" to carry out their statutory duties.

As yet, I am not aware of any compensation claims being pursued but as in many of these cases, it is often simply a matter of time as victims recover from the first shock of making a disclosure and decide to seek legal advice.

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Malcolm is an Senior Associate in our London office, with nearly twenty years' experience.

Malcolm Johnson
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