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Friday 25 July 2014

BBC dismisses calls for inquiry into Rolf Harris

Published 02/07/2014|08:04

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Artist and television personality Rolf Harris leaves court after being found guilty of 12 indecent assault charges at Southwark Crown Court after a seven week trial in London, England. 84-year-old Rolf Harris who has been found guilty of indecently assaulting four girls between 1968 and 1986,  was arrested in March 2013 by police officers working for Operation Yewtree.  (Photo by Ben A. Pruchnie/Getty Images)
Artist and television personality Rolf Harris leaves court after being found guilty of 12 indecent assault charges at Southwark Crown Court after a seven week trial in London, England. 84-year-old Rolf Harris who has been found guilty of indecently assaulting four girls between 1968 and 1986, was arrested in March 2013 by police officers working for Operation Yewtree. (Photo by Ben A. Pruchnie/Getty Images)

The BBC has dismissed calls for an inquiry following the conviction of veteran entertainer Rolf Harris for sex crimes, saying its review prompted by the Jimmy Savile scandal will be sufficient.

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The 84-year-old's reputation was left in tatters after he was found guilty of 12 charges involving four women, most while they were under age.

Dozens more alleged victims came forward during his trial, and police have said they will look at fresh allegations that were not part of the trial.

Child protection campaigners called on the BBC to launch an investigation for "turning a blind eye" to the the situation with Harris, but the corporation said there was no link between his crimes and the BBC.

Peter Saunders, from the National Association for People Abused in Childhood, told The Sun the BBC's attitude to the Harris case was similar to that taken with jailed TV presenter Stuart Hall and serial paedophile Savile.

He said: "Harris, like Savile, like Hall, was part of a corporation that helped cover up institutionalised abuse. The BBC has to come clean to expose what has gone on."

Mr Saunders said the BBC was "almost aiding the abusers", adding: "They need to lance this horrible boil and get it out there."

A spokesman for the corporation said: "The convictions do not relate to the BBC. We already have the Dame Janet Smith review which is making an impartial and independent investigation into the past culture and practices of the BBC during the period Savile worked for the corporation.

"And related to that, we commissioned an independent assessment of our current child protection and whistleblowing policies which will report later in the year."

He said any relevant information the BBC received had been passed on to police, adding: "The BBC had an agreed process when revelations about Savile were coming out. When contacts of this nature were made to the BBC they were passed to our Investigations Service who then passed them on to the police."

The Dame Janet Smith review was commissioned to examine how Savile carried out a decades-long campaign of abuse.

Delayed until later in the year until after Dave Lee Travis's forthcoming trial, it has been reported that the review is expected to uncover hundreds of victims and reveal a culture of ignorance which ''protected'' Savile.

Harris faces jail when he is sentenced on Friday for his offences, and his reputation lies in ruins.

There is growing pressure for him to be stripped of his honours from the Queen, and he has already had his Bafta fellowship, awarded two years ago, removed. Galleries and art houses are also reportedly ridding themselves of his work, removing it from online catalogues.

Tributes in his home country of Australia have been defaced, while 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.

Australian prime minister Tony Abbott said he was "gutted and dismayed" by the news of the conviction.

Sir Keir Starmer, the former director of public prosecutions, who advised on the decision to charge Harris in August last year, said the publicity of Harris's arrest had been vital in encouraging victims to come forward.

He said: "It's very difficult for victims of sexual abuse to come forward in ordinary circumstances. It's particularly difficult where there is a celebrity involved because very often victims feel they simply are not going to be believed against someone such as Rolf Harris.

"It was exactly the same with Jimmy Savile - very few victims did come forward in that case. they felt they couldn't take Jimmy Savile on, they wouldn't be believed. That's a critical part of this whole case."

Among the further alleged victims who have come forward are 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 which represents 176 victims of Savile, said they had been contacted by "up to a dozen people" with allegations about Harris and were considering them carefully.

The women are thought to be from the UK, New Zealand and Australia.

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