Australia strips Rolf Harris of honours after sex crime convictions

Tuesday 01 July 2014 10.55
Rolf Harris was found guilty of indecently assaulting four girls between 1968 and 1986
Rolf Harris was found guilty of indecently assaulting four girls between 1968 and 1986

Australia is to strip entertainer Rolf Harris of some of the numerous honours bestowed during a five-decade career after a British court found him guilty on 12 counts of indecently assaulting young girls.

Australian-born Harris, 84, was convicted yesterday of sexually assaulting four girls, some as young as seven or eight, between 1968 and 1986.

"Following his conviction in UK courts, the ARIA Board has made the decision to withdraw the ARIA Hall of Fame award bestowed upon Rolf Harris," the Australian Recording Industry Association said in a statement on its website.

An artist and musician who presented prime-time TV shows mostly aimed at children, including one aimed at combating sexual abuse of children, Harris was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 2008.

In the Perth suburb of Bassendean where Harris grew up, the mayor said a meeting would be held later in the week to decide if a plaque outside his family home, and artwork hanging in council buildings, would be removed.

"We simply cannot tolerate the horrendous crimes which he's been convicted of, so it is a shock but it's something we must do now to distance ourselves," John Gangell told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Harris is the biggest name to go on trial since British police launched a major investigation after revelations that the late BBC TV host Jimmy Savile was a prolific child sex abuser.

Harris, who denied all the charges and said the allegations against him were "laughable", will be sentenced on Friday.

Harris faces fresh abuse claims

Meanwhile, Harris faces fresh allegations of abuse in the wake of his conviction yesterday.

More alleged victims have come forward to report attacks they say they suffered at the hands of the disgraced children's entertainer, the director of public prosecutions has said.

But Alison Saunders said it is too early to say whether Harris 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."

Ms Saunders said Harris had been exposed for using "elements of grooming" when targeting his daughter's best friend, who he indecently assaulted over many years beginning when she was just 13.

She added: "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."

Ms Saunders said the conviction of high profile celebrities including Harris gave other sex abuse victims the courage to come forward and report abuse.

But asked if more women might have come forward if Harris' name had been publicised earlier, she said it was a "difficult balance to draw".

She said: "It is difficult, there are arguments on both sides - some people feel that they have been named and then if no charges are brought their reputation has been tarnished.

"But at the same time we have seen both in Rolf Harris and in other cases that if victims know that people are reporting that someone has been arrested they feel safer in coming forward, they feel they are not the only one and therefore we have seen more and more victims coming forward as people have been named."

Harris is the second celebrity to be convicted under Operation Yewtree, which was set up in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal.

Ms Saunders defended the police inquiry, saying it showed "no-one is above the law".

And she dismissed criticism that only a few of the high-profile arrests of celebrities had so far resulted in convictions.

She told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "What you have to remember is that we get it right in 86% of cases, we get convictions in 86% of those cases that we take.

"So we are not risk averse, we have to be very careful that we don't get to a situation where we only take very short cases.

"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 that we put before them.

"That's a very different test from the one that we take, which is, is there a realistic prospect of conviction."

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