Comedian Freddie Starr has lost his damages claim against a woman who said he groped her when she attended a Jimmy Savile TV show when she was 15 years old.
The entertainer told London's High Court last month that he did not at first remember appearing on Clunk Click in March 1974 – 41 years ago – until footage showed him in the studio, with Karin Ward in the audience behind him.
- May 5, 2021
- April 30, 2021
- April 22, 2021
He rejected her allegation that he groped and humiliated her in Savile's dressing room by calling her a "t**less wonder".
Ward, 56, denied the slander and libel claims and relied on the defences of justification and public interest.
Starr was not in court for the ruling.
Starr told Mr Justice Nicol: "It just never happened. It was not in my moral compass. My moral compass will not allow me to do that."
The 72-year-old comedian, who was married to the second of his four wives at the time, said he had never groped anyone in his life and it was untrue that he had "wandering hands".
He sued over interviews given to the BBC and ITV in October 2012 and statements on a website and in an eBook – and claimed he has lost £300,000 because of shows cancelled as a result of the allegations.
Ward said that she was sexually abused by her stepfather from the age of four and Starr's "extremely unpleasant" smell reminded her of him.
The mother-of-seven, a pupil at Duncroft Approved School at the time, said she had performed a sexual act on Savile more than once in return for going to BBC Television Centre in London for his Clunk Click show.
She said she was given lithium at the school, which had affected her memory, but "very vividly" remembered that Starr stank of alcohol and cologne.
Starr had denied her claim that he smelt of alcohol – as he did not drink, and never had done.
Ward told the court: "He called me a 't**less wonder'. I carried that phrase with me all my life and it certainly helped to wreck three marriages."
Ward told the judge, who heard the case without a jury, that Starr had behaved in the same way that every red-blooded male did in 1974 – when it was perfectly acceptable.
She said she had no idea that what she had written about her life was going to be spread all over the globe.
"Had I ever ever anticipated that anything like this might possibly happen… I am very very naive, I am very silly, I am a complete technophobe."
When she was contacted by the BBC in 2011 for a Newsnight interview about Savile, she was reluctant because she was having treatment for advanced bowel cancer.
She felt pressured to do the interview – in which she included the words complained of by Starr but did not identify him by name – but was convinced that the BBC would never air it and, as she felt she would not survive, did not think she was exposing herself to a great risk.
When the Newsnight programme did not go ahead, she had no control over the use the BBC made of the interview and never imagined that other programme makers would take the footage.
She said that when she spoke about Starr for the ITV interview about Savile to a journalist, who said he was building up a dossier, she did not know or intend that her words would be broadcast.
She told the court: "I am not prepared to apologise to the claimant or retract what I have said, because I have told the truth about him."
In his ruling, the judge said that the claim in slander based on Ward's interview to the BBC was brought outside the legal time limit and therefore failed.
The claim in libel was based on the broadcast of a clip from the BBC interview in Panorama and Ward was not liable for the composite broadcast.
The interview which she gave to ITV, which had given rise to a slander claim, failed because Ward had proved that it was true that Starr groped her – an under-age schoolgirl – and humiliated her by calling her a "t**less wonder".
"His behaviour and smell also frightened her because it reminded her of her stepfather who had sexually abused her as a child. Because her words were true, this claim fails."
Starr had sued Ward over the publication of her memoir on a website only after October 2012 but he had not been able to prove it was still available after that date and so that claim failed.
The claim over the eBook related to allegations which Ward had proved were true.
Starr is facing a costs bill unofficially estimated at about £1 million.
Ward, who was in court, said she was "relieved" at the ruling.
"For anyone who hasn't yet dared to come forward, I say: do not take this case as a reason not to do so. Stand tall, it wasn't your fault, and you have a right to be heard without fear or threat of not being believed.
"You may have had no voice and no choice when you were younger, but now you do. Don't give in to bullies."