Thursday 25 December 2014

New probes after Harris convictions

Published 01/07/2014 | 08:17

Rolf Harris was found guilty of 12 charges
Rolf Harris was found guilty of 12 charges

Rolf Harris's reputation has been left in tatters as police considered fresh allegations against him amid calls for tributes and honours to the disgraced star to be removed.

After the 84-year-old's unanimous conviction of 12 sex charges involving four women - most while they were under age - police said they will look at fresh allegations that were not part of his trial at Southwark Crown Court.

Dozens more alleged victims came forward during the trial, including several in Australia, and Scotland Yard has been in touch with their counterparts in the Australian police. It is not yet clear whether they are pursuing any investigation in Harris's home country.

Richard Scorer, abuse lawyer for Slater & Gordon who represent 176 victims of Jimmy Savile, said they had been contacted by "up to a dozen people" with allegations about Harris and were considering them carefully.

He said: "We back an over-arching inquiry into child abuse once those reports which are still outstanding are completed.

"What we have discovered in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal is just how deep child abuse in institutions ran and how some people were seemingly allowed to continue their sickening crimes unchallenged.

"It is therefore vital we do everything possible now to learn from the mistakes of the past and take this opportunity to toughen the laws around the protection of children and vulnerable adults in institutions."

The 12 women who have contacted Slater & Gordon with allegations about Harris are thought to be from the UK, New Zealand and Australia.

NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless said they had received an "explosion of calls" in the last 24 hours from people concerned about sexual abuse, not directly related to Harris himself, he said: "I think this case is symptomatic of an increased confidence that people have now to seek justice for crimes that have been committed against them".

Mr Wanless told ITV's Good Morning Britain that the decision by Harris to feature in a child abuse prevention video Kids Can Say No in the 1980s had shown his "absolute hypocrisy".

He said: "I think this illustrated the absolute hypocrisy of Rolf Harris, there is no excuse for him not understanding the nature of the crimes that he was committing, here is someone who is absolutely providing children with good advice about how to stay safe."

He said Harris had commissioned an independent film company to make the video then asked the NSPCC about the accuracy of the messages in it..

"It shows the complete hypocrisy and the danger of sexual predators hiding in plain sight," he added.

"It is extraordinary, it shows the brazen nature of the crimes and this sort of self-confidence that sexual predators can feel that they are almost above the law."

Harris faces jail when he is sentenced on July 4 for the offences, and his reputation was in ruins following his conviction.

The mayor of Perth in western Australia said the council was considering tearing up a plaque to Harris inlaid in the city's St Georges Terrace, while there is growing pressure for the disgraced entertainer to be stripped of his honours from the Queen.

Harris has already had his Bafta fellowship, awarded two years ago, removed.

Australian prime minister Tony Abbott said he was "gutted and dismayed" by the news of the conviction, telling ABC radio: "I feel gutted and dismayed but it's very important that we do everything we humanly can to protect vulnerable young people. Sexual abuse is an utterly abhorrent crime.

"It's just sad and tragic that this person who was admired seems to have been a perpetrator."

Simon Danczuk, Rochdale MP, has called for the star's honours to be revoked - the star received an MBE in the 1960s, followed by an OBE a decade later, and a CBE in 2006.

Mr Danczuk, who called for an "overarching" inquiry into historic child sex abuse, said: "I think it has brought the position into disrepute, I think it is absolutely the right action to take. I think the guy is an absolute disgrace and he is bringing the whole honours system into disrepute."

While the Cabinet Office said it could not comment on individual cases, normal protocol sees honours from Buckingham Palace forfeited in circumstances where the person is considered to have brought the system into disrepute.

A recommendation can be made by the Honours and Appointments Secretariat to the forfeiture committee to revoke an honour if a person has been found guilty of a criminal offence.

The decision to revoke an honour must be approved by the Queen.

In 2005, the Queen sat for Harris while he painted a portrait, commissioned by the BBC for television programme The Queen By Rolf, to mark her 80th birthday and in 2012 the entertainer took centre-stage as one of the performers at the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations outside the palace.

Press Association

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