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Wednesday 20 August 2014

Dozens more women claim they were abused by Rolf Harris

Entertainer faces losing his fortune

Martin Evans and Holly Watt

Published 02/07/2014 | 02:30

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Entertainer Rolf Harris and his wife Alwen leaving Southwark Crown Court. Harris, a mainstay of family entertainment in Britain and Australia for more than 50 years, was found guilty on Monday of 12 charges of indecently assaulting young girls over a period of nearly 20 years.  REUTERS/Luke MacGregor
Entertainer Rolf Harris and his wife Alwen leaving Southwark Crown Court. Harris, a mainstay of family entertainment in Britain and Australia for more than 50 years, was found guilty on Monday of 12 charges of indecently assaulting young girls over a period of nearly 20 years. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor
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)
Detective Mick Orchard speaks to media at Southwark Crown Court before 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)
Detective Mick Orchard speaks to media at Southwark Crown Court before 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)

Rolf Harris could lose the bulk of his £11m (€14m) fortune after dozens more women came forward to allege he had attacked them in the past.

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The 84-year-old now faces the prospect of having to fend off a series of compensation claims from his alleged victims and also crippling legal costs if he has to defend more court cases in Britain and abroad.

Police have confirmed they are already examining a number of fresh allegations against Harris with a view to future possible charges.

In addition, lawyers who represented victims of Jimmy Savile said they have been contacted by 12 women who claim Harris abused them in the past. It raises the prospect of some of his victims launching civil claims for damages, which could run into millions.

A large part of his money is tied up in his Thames-side home in Bray, Berks, that he owns with his wife, Alwen. The bulk of his assets appear to be owned through two companies: Rolf Harris Enterprises Ltd and RHE Investments Ltd.

The first company holds over £2m (€2.5m) and RHE had shareholders' funds of almost £7m (€8.7m) last year.

Rolf Harris Enterprises is owned by RHEL Holdings, which was set up in January 2012. The holding company is in turn owned by Harris and his wife.

Half of RHE Investments is owned by Harris and his wife, while the other half is owned by family trusts.

Harris will be sentenced on Friday after he was found guilty of 12 counts of indecent assault against four girls.

Meanwhile, the decision not to identify Harris as a suspect in a child sex abuse investigation has been defended by the British Director of Public Prosecutions, despite the fact that more alleged victims came forward when he was eventually named in the media.

Harris was given months of anonymity after he was first identified by police as a potential paedophile in November 2012.

Harris was formally arrested in March last year, but police refused to confirm his identity, despite it being widely known within the media.

Lawyers representing the 84-year-old former children's television presenter then began threatening newspapers with legal action if they named Harris as a suspect in Operation Yewtree, the investigation looking at historic sex abuse allegations.

However, the following month he was identified by a newspaper and at that point the floodgates opened, with more than a dozen alleged victims coming forward and making statements to police. Nine of them gave evidence at the trial.

Yesterday Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions, acknowledged that the publicity surrounding cases involving high-profile celebrities encouraged more victims to come forward.

She said: "These were nasty assaults committed by a man who thought he was not going to be discovered and who thought he was above the law."

But she defended the decision to offer Harris and others anonymity until they were charged, insisting it was a "difficult balance to draw".

Mrs Saunders also said Operation Yewtree, which was set up in the wake of the Savile scandal, had been a good thing, despite there only being two successful convictions out of 17 arrests.

She said: "We have not prosecuted every case under Operation Yewtree that has come to us because we have looked at the evidence, decided whether there is sufficient to go forward, and only when we think there is do we take it forward."

But she said the investigation showed that "no one is above the law".

She said the Crown Prosecution Service gets convictions in 86pc of cases it takes.

"It's a matter for the criminal justice system and the juries to decide whether or not they believe and whether they are satisfied on the basis of all the evidence we put before them," she said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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