A YORKSHIRE police officer who knew Jimmy Savile has won £60,000 libel damages over claims that he was a pervert who condoned rape and paedophilia and used his position to protect sexual predators like the disgraced DJ.
Sergeant Matthew Appleyard suffered great distress and developed hypertension and panic attacks because of the persistent attacks by Neil Wilby on Twitter and the website, unProfessional Standards Department (uPSD), which is devoted to criticism of the police.
There was not a “shred of evidence” that any of them was true, said High Court judge Mr Justice Bean, who also ordered Mr Wilby, who was not present or represented at the hearing in London, to pay costs of £18,174.
The judge said that Sgt Appleyard, a long-standing member of West Yorkshire Police’s Wetherby Neighbourhood Policing Team, came to know Savile and would meet him for a cup of tea from time to time in a group of people or at a larger social gathering, like a dinner.
He added: “It is important to remember as more and more revelations come to light about Jimmy Savile’s activities as a sexual predator that, during his lifetime, he was very well known, very popular and known to a very large number of people in all sorts of walks of life, without most of them having any idea what he was up to.
“It is important that people should not be smeared or found guilty by association. Saying that the claimant or anybody else used to have tea with Jimmy Savile is not at all the same thing as saying that the claimant condoned his predatory activities.
“Yet that, in essence, is what the defendant, in a number of publications - most of which are continuing - has done.”
He added; “The fact that the claimant, like so many others, was on good terms with Jimmy Savile is very far from establishing that he had any idea of what Jimmy Savile was doing - still less that he is a paedophile or sex criminal himself.”
On the website, Sgt Appleyard was called “a paedophile and rapist friend” - meaning he was a friend of someone he knew to be a paedophile or rapist - and a “protector” of paedophiles and rapists.
Other publications meant he was a physical threat to children in Wetherby and had most likely committed sexual offences against them and that there was a reasonable suspicion he was complicit in preventing complaints of women abused by Savile being investigated.
It was also claimed that he was dishonest, was suspected of using photos of children for sexually improper purposes, was a sexual pervert and someone who “befriends rather than apprehends” abusers, said the judge.
He added that Sgt Appleyard’s standing in Wetherby, a town of 11,000 people, was grievously affected by the allegations, and he was in a more vulnerable position than an officer in the Met whose work did not involve regular interaction with people in a relatively small neighbourhood.
On the other hand, the website and Mr Wilby, who lives in Huddersfield and has over 1,000 followers for tweets under his own name and pseudonyms, had “poor credibility”..
Mr Wilby, who did not file a defence to the action or any evidence but tweeted “See you in court”, is also now subject to an injunction, which prevents him repeating the allegations.
Sgt Appleyard declined to comment after the hearing.