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Tuesday 23 September 2014

New probes after Harris convictions

Published 01/07/2014 | 08:17

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Rolf Harris was found guilty of 12 charges

Tributes to the disgraced entertainer Rolf Harris could be torn down in his home state of Western Australia as police consider new allegations against him.

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The 84-year-old was unanimously convicted at Southwark Crown Court of 12 sex charges involving four women, most while they were under age.

Following the verdict police said they would look at fresh allegations that were not part of his trial.

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: " We have received a number of new allegations and these are now being considered."

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.

Harris faces prison when he is sentenced on July 4 for the offences.

Following the news of his conviction Australian prime minister Tony Abbott told 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."

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.

Lisa Scaffidi told Fairfax radio: "I can't say until the council decision is made but the general feeling around the place is that we don't accept those kind of offences.

"It's a very sad issue and something we need to deal with."

Asked about reaction to the verdicts, Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC, said: "We have had an explosion of calls in the last 24 hours from people worried and concerned about sexual abuse, not particularly directly related to Rolf Harris himself, but 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."

He 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".

"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.

The news that tributes to Harris could be removed in Australia comes amid 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. A spokesman for the Academy confirmed that his honour would be removed in light of the conviction.

"The British Academy of Film and Television Arts (Bafta) has made the decision to annul the Bafta fellowship bestowed upon Rolf Harris in 2012 following his conviction," said the spokesman.

Harris was first honoured at the palace in the late 1960s with an MBE, followed by an OBE a decade later, and a CBE in 2006.

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. In 2012 Harris took centre-stage as one of the performers at the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations outside the palace.

Meanwhile, more alleged victims have come forward to report attacks they say they suffered at the hands of Harris, the director of public prosecutions has said.

But Alison Saunders said it is too early to say whether he will face fresh criminal charges.

She told BBC Breakfast: "We know there has been more reporting, what we don't know yet is whether or not more charges will follow.

"We will work with the police and look at any cases that they send to us to see whether there is enough evidence to bring more charges. So it is too early to say really."

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