Jimmy Savile – Justice to be done and seen to be done?

Monday, November 12th, 2012

Jimmy Savile’s name was once associated with joy, energy and generosity. This enabled him to become a familiar face to many viewers of prime time TV shows throughout the 1960’s and 70’s. Due to the torrent of sexual abuse complaints to police (approximately 400 in total) his name is now synonymous with child abuse that he is alleged to have perpetrated for decades.

Police will no doubt be feeling the pressure of public expectation as people demand answers and seek reassurance that the relevant lessons will be learned to try and afford better protection for society’s most vulnerable individuals. Mr Savile was interviewed twice by police about sexual abuse allegations, once in 2007 by Surrey Police and once in 2008 by Sussex Police but no further action was taken at the time.

Due to the ongoing nature of the Savile investigation and the arrest of other individuals, the investigating officers will no doubt, in light of the recent case of Christopher Halliwell, carefully consider and monitor any information released to the media.

The recent case of R v Christopher Halliwell (2012) concerns the exclusion of evidence due to breaches of the Police & Criminal Evidence Act 1984 which is the Act that governs police investigatory powers when dealing with suspects and the release of information to the media which may result in a fair trial being impossible for the defendant at a later date.

Mr Halliwell was convicted of murdering one of the two women he was suspected of killing due to the exclusion of evidence at Bristol Crown Court by Lady Justice Cox. Two arguments were put forward by the defence:

Firstly that prior to Mr Halliwell’s arrest there had been a conscious “drip feeding” of information to the media via regular media briefings by the officer which was an “assault on the integrity of the Criminal Justice System”. It is important to note that the briefings to the media continued despite messages of caution from the Crown Prosecution Service and representations to desist from the defence. The defence successfully argued that the information disseminated by the police meant that Mr Halliwell’s right to a fair trial was irretrievably damaged. The right to a fair trial is a fundamental freedom protected under Article 6 of European Convention on Human Rights.

The second limb to the argument put forward by Mr Halliwell’s legal team was the flagrant breach of PACE which was an illegal interview conducted by the officer in the case. The officer told Mr Halliwell that he should “do the right thing” and tell him where the body was, or face being “vilified” in the press. Mr Halliwell took the Detective Superintendent to the body and allegedly confessed to the killing.

Mr Halliwell was not cautioned which was a breach of Code C of PACE or told of his right to a free lawyer who would act for him independently of the police. Mr Halliwell’s lawyers successfully had the confession excluded from proceedings under Sec. 78 of PACE.

The Court’s ability to exclude evidence that has not been obtained by legal means should act as a reminder that police actions during an investigation, however well intentioned, must be lawful. The judiciary have made it clear that any flouting of PACE will be viewed very seriously.
Our criminal lawyers deal in a variety of matters from simple thefts to the most complex and serious allegations. All our clients experience the same attention to detail by members of our criminal department. We will analyse the evidence in each case including how the police have obtained this evidence and will be able to apply for the exclusion of unfairly obtained evidence in appropriate cases.

To find out more about how our criminal team may assist you or someone you know please contact our Criminal Department on 0207 228 0017.