In recent months floods of new information has come to light about DJ Jimmy Savile’s alleged sex attacks. On Tuesday October 16, 2012 The Sun branded the ex-presenter of Top of The Pops as ‘evil Jim’. In the article, which spans a full page in the newspaper, the late Jimmy Savile is understood to have been involved in a massive ‘paedophile scandal’. The article describes not years but ‘decades’ of Savile preying on youngsters; the word ‘preying’ reducing him to the same level as an animal. The Sun reveals that Savile used a 1974 autobiography to ‘chillingly’ brag about how he snared young girls and the newspaper refers to him as ‘grubby’ and, a ‘pervert’.
Interestingly, within the article itself, The Sun describe how they have already been in trouble with Savile’s lawyers, in 2008, after they published a photograph of Savile with children at a Jersey care home – when he had previously denied ever being there. Although the law protects an individual’s personal and professional reputation from unjustified attack there is a clearly stated defence of justification from The Sun, within the article, as the photograph is said to have ‘proved truth’.
The Sun’s article is defamatory in the sense that it exposes Savile to hatred and lowers him in the estimation of members of society however; it does not disparage him in his business, trade, office, or profession as he died on October 29, 2011. The publication would more likely have brought a threat of libel should Jimmy Savile still be alive but as he is dead he cannot sue the paper for defamatory statements and neither can his relatives.
The Sun can arguably also use honest comment as a defence, should they ever be accused of libel, as the statements reflect an honestly held opinion on a matter of public interest. This idea can be backed up by the evidence given by one of his alleged victims who gives an account of Savile trying to ‘grope’ her and prey on her vulnerability. Furthermore, when taking a look at The Sun’s online news page, Savile’s toll of victims is said to have hit ‘200’ in an article published on October 20, 2012 therefore the importance of the article in public interest is considerable.
I do not believe that either articles published by The Sun could be held up for libel, simply due to the fact that Savile is dead however, should circumstances have been different and he was still alive the newspaper could have faced a hefty payout in damages for their allegations.