Police Sergeant awarded £60,000 libel damages

Libel case concerning allegations connected with Jimmy Savile sex crimes concludes

Michael Appleyard, a Police Sergeant based in a small town in West Yorkshire, has won his libel claim against Neil Wilby in relation to words published on Mr Wilby’s website and tweets sent by him.

In the early 1990s Mr Appleyard was a police constable for an area which included Jimmy Savile’s home.  He got to know Mr Savile by sometimes having a cup of tea with him and other local residents at Mr Savile’s penthouse flat.  At the time he had no suspicion that Mr Savile was committing crimes of any description.

Mr Wilby publishes a website called the Unprofessional Standards Department.  It is dedicated to criticising the West Yorkshire Police.  He also regularly tweets to the same effect.

From around January 2013 Mr Wilby began to publish allegations on his website and by tweets arising from the Mr Appleyard’s connection with Mr Savile.  In various articles concerning Mr Savile, Mr Wilby alleged that Mr Appleyard had misused his position as a police officer to protect paedophiles and rapists, had prevented complaints made against Mr Savile from being investigated, was himself a physical threat to children, had committed sexual offences and was dishonest.

Despite having tweeted “See you in court” in response to the Mr Appleyard’s letter of claim, Mr Wilby did not acknowledge service of proceedings and did not attend court for the Claimant’s application that judgment be entered in default of such acknowledgment.

Judgment was entered in favour of the Mr Appleyard and Mr Justice Bean awarded him £60,000 in damages.  The Judge concluded that “there was not a shred of evidence” that any of the allegations were true.  He noted that many people had been on good terms with Jimmy Savile but that this was very far from establishing that such people had any knowledge at the time of the crimes being committed by him or that he was a paedophile or sex criminal.

In deciding upon the level of damages Mr Justice Bean made allowance for the fact that a lower quantum was justified because the allegations were made by “an accuser of poor credibility.”  Nevertheless he concluded that £60,000 was justified in view of the seriousness of the allegations and the substantial distress caused to Mr Appleyard by them.  Mr Appleyard was also granted an injunction forbidding further publication of the allegations complained of.

5RB’s William Bennett was instructed on behalf of Mr Appleyard by Chris Donnison of Pattinson Brewer.