Rolf Harris – Beyond Reasonable Doubt?
Rolf Harris has been convicted and for many that is conclusive proof of his guilt. However, we should not forget that the British justice system is not perfect, it can make errors, as these high profile miscarriages of justice show.
I do not know if Rolf Harris committed the crimes he was accused of. However, I find the fact that he was convicted, based on the evidence reported by the BBC, alarming.
Let me explain why:
COUNT ONE – VERDICT: GUILTY
“The woman said she was aged seven or eight when she queued to get an autograph from Harris at a community centre in Hampshire in 1968 or 1969. When she reached the front of the queue, Harris had touched her inappropriately with his “big hairy hands”, she told the jury.
The court heard that no evidence could be found that Mr Harris had been at the community centre. He also showed his hands to the jury and denied they were hairy.”
When they say that no evidence could be found that Mr Harris had been at the community centre, they don’t mean a cursory glance turned nothing up. They searched local newspaper archives between January 1967 and May 1974, council records and even conducted letter drops appealing for witnesses. Nothing, not a single piece of independent evidence that he was ever there!
It is hard to see how the uncorroborated recollection of an event alleged to have happened 45 years ago, when the witness was eight, can constitute proof beyond reasonable doubt.
Consider for a moment, what you can accurately remember from when you were eight? I am not as old as the witness but I can’t remember the name of my best friend, my teacher, my birthday party, frankly anything. I have a childhood scar, it must have been caused by a significant trauma. I remember it hurt and bled a lot, but I can’t remember how it happened, let alone where, when or who was with me at the time.
Even if the victim is sincere in believing her own recollection of events, she may simply be mistaken. Memory is not a flawless recording device. It is very common for people to believe they remember things that can be proven to have never happened. If you find that hard to believe there is a very good TED Talk dealing with it
As a principle of justice it seems absurd that anyone can be convicted simply on the unsupported “evidence” of someone else accusing them of a crime.
Only a few days ago a trainee barrister was convicted of falsely accusing a former boyfriend of rape. Here is another recent case and another. People make false allegations, for many different reasons; to take revenge on a former partner or in some cases for financial gain. In this case the “victim” made $1.5 Million before admitting years later that she made the whole thing up.
Making a claim against a celebrity is a heads I win, tails I don’t lose proposition for any opportunist!
If the accuser is believed they make a huge financial windfall. If not, they still ruin their target’s reputation (no smoke without fire) and they almost certainly won’t be charged with making a false claim.
Nobody charged the false accusers of celebrities such as Bill Roache, or Dave Lee Travis or Jimmy Tarbuck or Jim Davidson or Michael Le Vell or the footballers Nile Ranger, Christian Montano, Ellis Harrison, Loic Remy or another 11 innocent footballers here.
No one who wasn’t there can be sure what Rolf Harris did or didn’t do in this case, but I know that there is an £11m incentive for people to make up accusations and without any corroborating evidence there has to be a reasonable doubt in favour of the accused.
COUNT TWO – VERDICT: GUILTY
Another woman said she had been working as a waitress, at the age of 13 or 14, at a charity event in Cambridge in 1975 when Harris had put his arm around her shoulder.
“To start, it was a very nervous but a good feeling,” she said. “However his hand then moved and his hand went up and down my back and his hand went over my bottom and it was very firm.”
Again all we have is uncorroborated allegations.
I know that Rolf Harris said that he had never been to Cambridge and that this was shown to be a false statement, for many this was the silver bullet that proved his guilt. But, failures of memory are not proof of indecent assault!
Remember, Rolf Harris is 84 years old and has been in show business for 60+years. He has been all over the country for various events and it is not at all unreasonable for an 84 year old man to forget having been somewhere 40 years previously.
Indeed Crime Watch presenter Sue Cook admitted she had forgotten being in the same show
If you think it through it would make no sense for Rolf Harris to deliberately lie about this.
He was not on trial for being in Cambridge and being there is not the same as committing the offence. If he knew he had been in Cambridge he would presumably know it was for a television show. In the internet age there had to be a chance it would come to light and undermine his credibility as a witness. Why take the chance? If he didn’t believe totally that he had never been to Cambridge why not simply say, “I don’t remember being in Cambridge at that time, I travelled around a lot”
Then there is the seldom mentioned fact that the show actually took place in 1978, three years after the alleged indecent assault incident.
This would make the alleged victim 16 or 17 not the child of 13 claimed. If the accuser cannot remember whether she was a child of 13 or a teenager of 17, can we really ruin a man solely on the strength of her memory?
She also got the location wrong:
“The alleged victim had suggested the event had taken place on Parker’s Piece, a large green in the centre of Cambridge.”
The show was actually filmed on Jesus Green a much larger, wooded park about a 6 minute drive north.
So the accuser couldn’t remember when it happened (or how old she was), she couldn’t remember where it happened and yet the jury found her 36 year old memory of the indecent assault to be evidence beyond a reasonable doubt!
When we talk about the indecent assault we are not talking about something so traumatic, like rape, that it would understandably be burned into her memory. We are talking about a 17 year old having her bottom touched in the 1970′s, a time where bottom pinching was considered mainstream enough for popular TV shows such as Are You Being Served and on billboards for respectable brands such as Fiat .
Again, nobody who wasn’t there can be sure what Rolf Harris did or didn’t do in this case, but I know that there is an £11m incentive for people to make up accusations and
without any corroborating evidence there has to be a reasonable doubt in favour of the accused.
I will come back to counts 3-9, but first lets deal with:
COUNTS 10 TO 12 – VERDICTS: GUILTY
Tonya Lee was a 15-year-old on a theatre trip from Australia to the UK when, she said, the entertainer fondled her.
Ms Lee has waived the right to anonymity granted to alleged victims of sexual offences. The three charges relate to one day in May 1986.
She said he asked her to sit on his lap before moving his hand up her leg and assaulting her.
“He was moving back and forth rubbing against me,” she said. “It was very subtle, it wasn’t big movements.”
The jury heard that Harris had then patted her on the thigh and moved his hand upwards. She said she had “started to panic” and rushed to the toilet.
When she came out, she said, Harris was waiting for her and gave her “a big bear hug” before putting his hand down her top and then down her skirt.
Harris denied ever meeting Ms Lee.
It was also revealed that she had sold her story for £33,000 to an Australian TV station and a magazine. She said accepting the money had been a “huge mistake”.
Here we have the uncorroborated accusation of a woman who has already cashed in, to the tune of £33,000!
She also claimed in her evidence that the sexual assault caused her to lose six kilos in weight during the six week theatre tour. It was then proven in court that the alleged incident could only have taken place in the final week of the tour!
As the defence QC pointed out:
“Are you really saying between this alleged incident on May 30 and six days later that you lost all that weight….in six days? You have blamed the loss of weight and inability to eat upon Rolf Harris.”
At best it appears that the witness has a confused recollection of events, not surprising after 28 years, at worst she was simply lying for financial gain.
we don’t know what Rolf Harris did or didn’t do in this case, but I know that there is an £11m incentive for people to make up accusations and without any corroborating evidence there has to be a reasonable doubt in favour of the accused.
The remaining allegations concern the childhood friend of Rolf Harris’ daughter Bindi.
COUNTS THREE TO NINE – VERDICTS: GUILTY
Seven of the 12 charges related to a childhood friend of Harris’s daughter Bindi. Six charges related to alleged abuse when she was aged between 13 and 15, and the seventh to when she was 19.
The court heard that the abuse began when she had been on holiday with the Harris family at the age of 13. Later, the woman said Harris had performed a sex act on her at the Harris family home, with Bindi asleep in the same room.
Further assaults took place at the Harris home and in her bedroom at her own home while her parents were downstairs, she said.
The convicted celebrity admitted having a sexual relationship with the woman – but stressed that it had been consensual and had begun after she had turned 18.
However, the relationship had “ended in a very acrimonious way,” he said.
The court was shown a letter Harris sent to the woman’s father in 1997, after the end of the relationship.
The letter said: “I fondly imagined that everything that had taken place had progressed from a feeling of love and friendship – there was no rape, no physical forcing, brutality or beating that took place.”
Here we do have actual evidence, of sexual activity between an older man and a much younger woman.
Rolf Harris admits to having a sexual relationship with her when she was 18 years old. She is now 49, so at the time Rolf Harris would have been 53, an age gap of 35 years.
To many of us such a large age gap seems unnatural, but it is certainly not unusual for famous older men to have relationships with younger women: 73 year old Patrick Stewart Recently married Sunny Ozell, 38 years his junior Michael Douglas is 25 years older than Katherine Zeta Jones. James Woods has a girlfriend 46 years his junior, Alec Baldwin’s wife is 26 years younger, Doug Hutchinson is breaking up with his wife who is 34 years younger, Woody Allen’s wife is 35 years younger than him, Dick Van Dyke’s wife is 46 years younger and the biggest age gap I could find was Hugh Heffner whose wife is 60 years his junior.
The fact that large age gap relationships make most of us uncomfortable, does not make them a crime, or evidence of sexual abuse. Some women find famous, rich or powerful men sexually attractive regardless of their age and almost all men find at least some 18 year old women sexually attractive!
The letter evidence proves a sexual relationship that we may disapprove of, however, it is not evidence of criminal activity.
If the alleged abuse started when she was 13 it was in 1978. They had, by all accounts, a consensual relationship from when she was 18 in 1983 until it was ended in 1997 when she was 32.
They had an adult sexual relationship for at least 14 years, whatever trauma she alleges she had suffered, she had clearly forgiven him. Or could it be that there never was any abuse? At the age of 30 or 31 she was clearly an adult, so why stay in a sexual relationship with a former abuser?
The relationship ended acrimoniously, so she certainly had a motive to turn vindictive.
In addition, Harris told police in 2012 that Bindi’s friend had threatened to expose his affair in the tabloid press in the Nineties and had demanded £25,000 for an animal sanctuary. Harris refused.
“The court has previously heard that she was an alcoholic by the time she was in her late 20s”
There is, considerable scientific evidence that alcohol abuse is linked to confabulation (also called honest lying) where people make things up and honestly believe them”
The standard of guilt in a criminal trial is supposed to be, beyond a reasonable doubt. Without any corroborating evidence of under-age on non-consensual sexual activity can it really be beyond doubt that this could simply be a vindictive attack by an ex-partner, or a confabulated tale from a confessed alcoholic, or an attempt to gain financial advantage ?
Some will doubtless say that even if individually these are not compelling, when taken as a whole they paint a picture of an abuser. This is a very dangerous conclusion, lots of nonsense is still nonsense:
Many people have claimed to be abducted by aliens. Individually their accounts are not compelling, but (even though there are lots of them) taking them together they still don’t paint a picture of extra-terrestrial attack!
The media, in its orgy of “Savilization”, has been encouraging people to come forward. The press is also awash with stories of compensation for “victims”, if any social climate was perfect for false accusers to try their luck, this would be it.
I really don’t know (and nor do you!) whether Rolf Harris is an evil paedophile monster or an 84 year old national treasure who has been ruined by greedy/malicious opportunists.
I do know that if all it takes to send a man to prison and ruin his life is an uncorroborated accusation from 45 years ago, then no man is safe under British justice.
I quite agree. Without corroborating evidence and after such a lapse of time, how could any jury find a case proven beyond all reasonable doubt?
It seems the jurors are not immune to the media hysteria surrounding this and other cases.
Meantime, in Northern Ireland, they are suggesting that old cases of murder from around the same time should no longer be investigated! Political Correctness is indeed a marvellous, multifaceted phenomenon.
Does he intend to appeal? I find the demands that his sentence be increased or for “retrospective sentencing” revolting-especially the second.
People have been often been fitted up by the cops. Sometimes because they were under pressure as in the Guildford 4 case or sometimes, as in the tragic Stephen Kitzko case because some copper(s) just “knew” who was guilty.
Yewtree is different. The state has been infiltrated by Radical Feminist scum–the Family Courts fiasco bares witness to that– and the cops are carrying out the wishes of those feminist commissars. When the first few prosecutions failed the CPS threw all their top female legal talent at Max Clifford and Rolf. And given the behaviour of the Judges in these last 2 cases –rambling about assaults on 12 year olds in Cliffords case–when there was no such charge made and allowing “evidence” against Rolf that seems to contain absolutely no substance beyond unsupported accusation–it seems the fix is in. In the days of Lord Denning (whatever his failings) Rolf’s QC would prob have had to do no more that repeat the evidence against his client and look at Denning with a raised eyebrow to have the lot flung out of court.
Well said. I feel very uncomfortable about the whole thing. And the reaction of his so-called ‘friends’ can only be described as hysterical.
They need a wicker-man to burn. It’s to help themselves.
I think the thing to understand here (from my perspective anyway) is that Harris, Clifford, Hall, Travis, etc are basically collateral damage in a culture war. The basic purpose of all this is to demonise and deprecate the thing we call “The Sexual Revolution” (TSR) and gain propaganda for its reversal.
“The 1970s” is being rebranded as a time of terrible things occurring. The significant point about TSR is that it was the zetigeist of the period when First Wave Feminism had broken down (or at least, dwindled to unimportance). After the success of the Suffragettes imposing their Victorian ideal of sexual repression (and of other hedonisms like alcohol and narcotics) they ran out of stuff to do, and largely disappeared from the public scene. The result was, after the 1950s, people got some freedom back.
Social relations tend (in a strangely somewhat marxist way) to be the result of technological changes. The key one of course was the birth control pill, which enabled a lot of tumbumpery that previously hadn’t been possible without great risk of pregnancy. The other was, largely ignored, antibiotics which, prior to AIDS, enabled tumbumpers to avoid previously fatal or horrific diseases. The other was washing machines, refrigerators, modern detergents, vacuum cleaners and sandwich toasters, which enabled a radical relief of the previous female work role (at least among the lower ordes- the upper orders from which Feminist matrons derived never did any work anyway. They had servants to make their toasted sandwiches and wash their frocks and put their ridiculous hats on their ridiculous heads).
So within a very few years, women gained more freedom than at any previous time in human history. They had done so not only without the help of Suffragettes, but indeed because of their absence- the collapse of Victorianist Feminism was essential to the enablement of women to take up the new behaviours that technological change had enabled. So, by the 1970s, women had gained the freedom to have sex if they wanted, and the freedom to socialise in any sphere they wanted. They could be all girlie, or they could be down the pub in a rugby shirt and jeans drinking pints.
All without feminism.
The “Second Wave” of Feminism was a furious, terrified reactionary movement watching their beloved, repressed, miserable, censored, temperate society collapse. They have been trying ever since to reverse TSR. The primary method they have utilised- echoing strategies of the First Wave Feminists- is to stoke up sex hysteria. But more than that, they need to show that the period when Victorian Feminism was not in charge of the public perception of morality- the TSR period of the 1960s to circa 1980- was a terrible disaster in which billions of women were raped, abused, violated, touched up slightly, forced to worship Satan and had their ladyparts fangulated. And this is what we are seeing now.
Hence the description of TSR innovations- Page 3 as an iconic example- as “old fashioned”. Page 3 is of about the same vintage as Second Wave Feminism, but ironically it is the latter which has ancient Victorian vintage, not tits in the newspaper. Page 3 represented a new freedom and comfort with breasts and bodies (the collapse of the Feminist body horror) not some ancient tradition. As with everything in Feminism, and the fierce reactionary movement called Progressivism in general, white is black and black is white.
So the idea is to make it clear that The Sexual Revolution was a terrible disaster. Feminists on the internets today can routinely be found claiming (as indeed they have been among themselves since 1970ish) that TSR was really a male conspiracy to enable sexual abuse. These historic abuse cases represent propaganda that proves this interpretation of the era. Rolf Harris, the hamfisted womaniser, becomes the iconic representation of an evil that must be repudiated. They may never force womankind back into her corsets. But they are determined to break as many eggs as they can failing to make that omelette.
Dang, there should be a </i> after “not” in the second to last paragraph 🙁
I find the whole thing very odd.
What happened to proved beyond all reasonable doubt?
These sex cases seem to be decided under the civil burden of proof (balance of probabilities) if even that.
Ian (and Sean Gabb and the others) are correct -this is all very troubling, and may indeed be part of a culture war. The culture of the sexual revolution may not be my cup of tea (although its feminist enemies are not either) – but it is not in-its-self a crime.
Rolf Harris may be guilty (( do not know – I was not in the court room), but I am not going to allow myself of falling into the trap of thinking “Sean Gabb says he is innocent – therefore he must be guilty”, Sean (and co) are actually very good on criminal cases.
I go really back to my argument that in a liberal society, behaviour (including sexual behaviour) will find its own level. People will develop moral and ethical standards that work in practise- which is really a standard libertarian positition. I take the view that trying to drive morals from the centre causes the same mess as any other statism.
So far nationalising the sexual behaviours of the population have managed to wreck marriage, wreck the family, crash the birth rate and now seems to be determined to put everyone over the age of 60 in prison as a pervert. Not going very well, it seems 🙂
This is why also I prefer interpretations of Christianity where the Bible is a kind of guidebook from which general principles are derived, rather than a regulatory rulebook (as with my bete noire, the Puritans).
This sort of stuff is an important reason for a general distortion of humanness that results in things like the fact that a human male dare not so much as speak to a little kid who is standing in tears on the street because he can’t find Mommy or Daddy. Even a woman needs to be mighty careful.
Everybody in the society learns to mistrust everybody else, to assume the worst, so honesty and normal human reactions are discouraged … way too risky.
There are many cases of highly lucrative “explosive” “now-it-can-be-tolds” that are either pure fiction, as in that book by and about someone with a gazillion personalities…which certainly was an interesting book … by someone(s) calling him/her/their sel(ves) “The Troops for Truddi Chase.” Or the smash bestseller Sybil, immensely successful back in the day, made the two girls who wrote it a pile of moolah. And, so some say, Mommie Dearest, allegedly by Joan Crawford’s daughter, which for all I know is still selling like hotcakes and which, in any case, occasioned public utterances by many who knew her that Miss C. was a b****h on wheels. Which maybe she was; I never actually dated Joan.
It is said that the only example of a well-known autobiography (biography?) involving a person with multiple personalities was The Three Faces of Eve, which was made into a movie starring Joanne Woodward. And I can’t remember now whether “Eve’s” problem was supposed to have stemmed from abuse or not.
I’ve never heard of the subject gentleman and I had also never heard of the late Jimmy Savile, but I do note that the latter has been buried under a glacier-thick blanket of press attacks and general assumption of guilt that never refers to the testimony of Anna Raccoon challenging the entire narrative.
Of course, “moral panics” seem to be a normal part of the human condition. We know they go back at least as far as the witch-burning of the Middle Ages, which did not, as far as I know, proceed at the behest of either suffragettes or the Left (although I wouldn’t put anything, including time travel for vicious purposes, past the latter).
We also have the relatively recent popularity of Ritual Satanic Abuse as a cause celebre to which busybodies and gullible or hysterical persons can repair, either to get people in trouble (the neighbor as Guardian Against Wrongdoing, such a trip!) in the case of the former, or out of genuine fear and impaired judgment in the case of the latter.
It extends to every variant of “The Wor-r-lll-ddd Is Coming to An End!” mankind has ever known. Including the onset of near panic over Global Icing-over, from 40 years or so ago, which has been resurrected by some, and more recently, Warble Gloaming/CAGW/Climate-Change (which, even if a normal part of the geophysical cycle, is caused by humans and Must Be Stopped Now), the extinction of the Spotted Owl in the non-native habitat to which it was introduced some decades ago. Also the nail-biting worry over destroying “habitats” and general alarming species-extinction fanatics. Not to mention, including observation of a raccoon intent on invasion of the home of Yrs Trly unhappily ensconced in a trap set right next to the invasion route by licensed trappers, which got the Gestapo Lady next door all het up. (Look at that! the trap has been placed and baited so as to LU-U-RRRE the poor thing into it!)
But none of that is unnatural, which is my point. I think it’s a part of human nature to worry about things, along a spectrum from unrealistically “What, me worry? / Don’t worry, be happy!” to “The Wooorrrlllddd is Coming to an End,” and every point in between.
The problem with living is, it requires judgment.
Lastly, it would be really very nice if “Innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt” were the rule, in practice as well as on paper, on both sides of the Atlantic.
It would be nice if the reason for the principle (in domestic law, anyway) that “better 100 guilty men go free than that a single innocent man be punished.”
There are a few other principles the observance of which I would like to see more, but alas they would take us too far O/T.
“It would be nice if the reason … were more widely understood.”
–Although I must say that in my generation and before it, the principle was drummed into us as deeply as possible in school. But to internalize the principle is not to understand the reasons for it.
Satanic Ritual Abuse was the first wave of this same panic. This wave is Britain’s particular peak moment. But the same coalition of sex conspiracy theorists driven by Feminist ideology are behind it. As I said above, it’s basically a terrified Puritan reaction to the Sexual Revolution with those who most oppose sexual modernity- the Feminists and ultra-social conservatives- in cahoots with a crankish therapy model, the legal profession and the media.
But anyway, SRA was the first run. It was back then that I got interested in the subject and have been following it with ever increasing dismay ever since. The major problem is that it’s widely believed that SRA was debunked and ended. Instead, it just changed form to a more plausible model involving a (non-satanic) paedophile conspiracy.
All the signs are that the flames are now licking around the feet of the government itself-
Which is going to be “interesting”. I remember Sean some time ago commenting that witch hunts tend to end when they strike the genuinely powerful. I’m not so sure in this case. I would not be surprised to, in the near future, read in the mainstream press that Margaret Thatcher and her cabinet were all members of a paedophile conspiracy. Why stop at bringing down ancient, faded celebrities when you can bring down the memory of the most hated (by the Left) government of modern times and the despised female prime minister whose recent death had Sparts dancing in the street singing “Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead”?
This one is going to run and run.
Alas, Ian, I fear you are correct about its hitting the allegedly Mighty and formerly Mighty. (Lots of the long-dead are buried under glaciers of probable calumny. ) I’m not so sure it would bring down anyone who is currently Mighty, however. Look at what the Leaders, P.M.’s, Presidents, Rulers of this old world are able to get away with right now, today, even in the absence of Moral Panics. Personally, I nominate the Sith Itself as the worst example of this in the Western World. Why we are not in the grip of Moral Panic in spades over that particular object is beyond human understanding.
But I still think Moral Panics grow out of factors inherent in human nature, and that they’ve always been with us in one form or another and always will be. Color me an Unreconstructed Pessimist, if you will.
Which is not to say you’re wrong in the particular path through history that this unfortunate phenomenon has taken.
By the way, Ian:
Joan Crawford was vile. Christina wasn’t the first person to expose her.
yes, the Jury did take a long time and were also contemplating a non-unanimous verdict …
There was not the evidence to justify conviction. See also http://rationalthoughtprocess.wordpress.com/2014/07/07/mob-rule-worries-raised-by-the-rolf-harris-trial-a-miscarriage-of-justice/
I too followed the trial daily. While we can conclude that Rolf was touchy feely and some might say that he is a groper, there was nothing in that trial to convict him of any criminal offences. The Portsmouth community centre allegation was fantasy with no evidence whatsoever to prove that he was even there. In fact there was evidence supporting that he was NOT Tonya Lee was uncovered by Rolf’s barrister as a liar in court, but the jury turned ablind eye to this. Absolute evil! As for the child porn on his computer. What child porn? Believing uncorroborated hearsay the police put in the press is very dangerous! Don’t be fooled.
The “child porn” was actually adult porn which is why they withdrew the charge- then just smeared him instead in the press. They actually goofed by, for once, naming the source, so we could all go and have a look. What this actually does is finally demonstrate to the rest of us that Plod are taking people to court for “child porn” which is not child porn at all. Many of us have suspected this but, never being allowed to see the material, could not confirm it. Now we can. This means we can move from “I think the police are fitting people up” to “I know the police are fitting people up”. That’s quite a step forward.
I totally agree with everything said im an ex con and there’s stuff i got found not guilty for that i did and stuff i got guilty for that i didnt . Im not a criminal now and am happily married . I just cant help but think this is all wrong rolf aint a pedo just look at old footage of him and look at jimmy savile now you can tell with jimmy now we all no but rolf is like hes always been a nice old bloke . Free rolf
Rolf Harris’s name was tweeted on 29 November 2012 as being interviewed by police “as part of Savile other sexual offences”. This was done by the presenter of the Savile Exposure programmes shortly after they had been broadcast on ITV in the UK on 3 October 2012 and 21 November 2012 and on ABC in Australia on 19/20 November, with a schedule change. Retweeted almost 900 times.
Interesting food for thought here. The only case that was proved beyond any doubt was that Rolf had a sexual relationship with Bindi’s friend from the time she (the friend) was at least 18 years old – there is documentary proof of it and he himself has not denied it. But that woman, by her own admission, continued sexual liaisons with Rolf for many years after the alleged abuse. As an adult she chose to do that – her right (although perhaps unethical on her part – and his – due to Rolf being a married man at the time).
All the other testimony is tainted by serious inaccuracies, and such testimony would be ruled out of court in any other kind of trial (theft, assault, murder etc) – on the grounds of reasonable doubt. It’s not even impossible that perjury charges could ultimately be considered.
We could be looking at a serious miscarriage of justice here.
Agree – I entirely share the view that it was only demonstrated that he was guilty of an affair with someone who was over 18.
I think there has been a very serious miscarriage of justice, but I’m also concerned that now that he has been the subject to execution by the media (who of course want to prove that they condemn any paedophilia linked activity) regardless of the deficiencies in the evidence, that it is very difficult to address.
I also think that for women who make sexual allegations the desire to ensure that women come forward is now too much in favour of those who make allegations. In effect they are able to present thin evidence with little challenge, and in this case, no corroborative evidence that the event even take place.
What a sham the whole process was. As the writer of the blog says, we don’t know if Harris was guilty or not, but it does appear that he was convicted on the basis on no evidence.
I fear for British justice. I also feel deeply sad for Rolf Harris and his family who not only had to listen to unevidenced allegations, but then see him convicted on the basis of nothing that stood up.
I, too, feel empathy for Rolf Harris and his family. And I am not being maudlin. As far as I can determine, the allegations against Mr Harris were undermined by serious inaccuracies, if not by contamination. Had Mr Harris been subject to a civil case (balance of probabilities) there is a good chance that the court might have awarded damages to the plaintiffs. A good chance, I say.
But the proceedings in question were of a criminal nature, and for these the bar has to be set much higher.
The prosecution maintained that Rolf Harris had a certain modus operandi, but that modus operandi had already been set – for all the world to see and perhaps copy – by way of a PAID interview of an alleged victim on Australian television, on Channel 9’s “A Current Affair” in 2013. The managerial decision to air that interview on Australis’s longest established television network – before the court case against Harris proceeded – was possibly legal, but ethically questionable. There is such a thing as leading the witnesses – inside and outside of court.
Maybe the allegations against Harris are true, maybe they are not. Unethical behaviour has been established – Mr Harris has admitted to such behaviour on his own part. But not everything that’s unethical is illegal, and not everything that’s legal is ethical. Channel 9 should consider this. The maintenance of the rules of evidence is in the interest of all humans – man, woman and child.
Bitter experience has failed in her duty to teach us that. Perhaps she should be arraigned.
Appeal lodged – see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-28604456
I wish him good luck.
I believe that the rules in civil and criminal cases should be the same-beyond reasonable doubt. Sun this morning attacking Rolf for appealing and saying his sentence not long enough.
The appeal is important, over and above any personal considerations in Rolf’s case. If an individual can be convicted and condemned on mere hearsay – and that’s all I’ve seen in this case – then ultimately no one is safe.
Not one single third-party witness. Not an iota of forensic evidence. Almost all testimony against the accused heard anonymously – except for the woman who had already been handsomely paid for an interview excoriating Harris!
Each individual witness’s testimony seriously undermined by errors ( or worse) in details of place, date and circumstance.
How can the general public be confident that justice has been done? Or that injustice has not been perpetrated?
Agree very strongly. Totally undermines the rule of law.
Agreed. I hope he gets his appeal, and that he gets off.
And,if he does,that these lying bitches are publicly named and shamed!
…it seems that individuals are waiving their anonymity. However, I wonder about motives:
This is the witness who said Rolf Harris had hairy hands (he doesn’t) and where they were unable to demonstrate that the event happened.
They’ve had their day in court. They should try and muster up some dignity now and allow Rolf Harris to have his day in the court. Other than the obvious “mob rule concerns” I don’t understand why the BBC is allowing these people air time ahead of the appeal … well perhaps I do, but it is not right.
Today’s Sun-Ulrika Jonsson,the human four by four,saying he shouldn’t be allowed to appeal.
The women involved in the recent case against Mr Harris are not really “witnesses” in the modern sense of the word. The english term “to witness” used to mean “to profess”. Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example, don’t claim that they saw Jehovah do something, they rather profess whatever Jehovah’s agenda is (according to their perceptions, of course). This means that they are basically advocates of Jehovah.
If Fred Jones says that Susie Smith threw an egg at him, but Susie Smith says that Fred Jones rather threw an egg at her, we can’t rule for or against either party without being possessed of extraneous evidence.
The ladies making accusations against Harris are complainants – quite a different thing to witnesses. And each of their complaints needs to be dealt with on the merits of the individual allegation. Every allegation has to be verifiable. Juries are not supposed to pass judgement on mere personal opinion, but unfortunately this often happens.
Judges, however, have to be bound by the rules of law. This is why it’s essential that Harris instructs his lawyers to challenge conviction – not severity of sentence – on each individual charge. As far as I can determine, the testimony of each of these complainants should be dismissed on grounds of demonstrable inaccuracies. But even if the complainants had not all made mistakes in terms of time, date and circumstance, their testimonies relate to discrete occurrences. In other words, they are not four witnesses to a single episode, but participants in separate events. He said, she said. Inadmissible on all counts Your Honour.
We can’t convict a man or woman on mere hearsay or suspicion.
I recall an old saying which encapsulates your point “What the soldier said isn’t evidence”.
When serving on a jury some years ago, we were faced with rather unsatisfactory police evidence concerning the accused who was, shall we say, a bit of a rough diamond. It took an awful lot of effort to get it into people’s heads that the issue was not whether he had done it but whether the evidence proved he had. As one dear lady said ” I’m sure he’s done something. His eyes are so close together”. I think that , in the present atmosphere of hysteria concerning paedophilia, accusation is almost equivalent to conviction. The CPS takes into account the likelihood of conviction when deciding to prosecute – so we may expect similar cases to be brought on ever more flimsy evidence if present trends continue.
It is, of course, in the nature of the alleged offences that witnesses and facts are in short supply , especially after the elapse of so many years.
This has just jogged my memory about a case in a magistrates’ court in the early Sixties when the rules of evidence were observed.
A farm labourer had a small holding. His employer, the farmer, charged that he had stolen cattle feed for his own use on the small holding. At the time I was a trainee with a firm of corn merchants and it was part of the defence that the accused had been buying sufficient feed for his cattle from us and therefore had no reason to steal. I was asked to make an extract from the sales ledger in support of this and produce it in evidence and swear to it. The evidence was rejected because (a) it was not the original record from the ledger and (b) I had not witnessed the accused coming in to collect his feed. I was discharged as a witness because it was a market day.
The case was complicated because the accused was (I think) the brother of one of the ladies in the corn merchant’s shop and the defending solictor was her son-in-law. The bench consisted of two farmers (one a former army officer) and a farmer’s widow. She was also my landlady (superb digs!) , so sat back and took no part in the case but told me of the outcome afterwards.
The case hinged on whether the farmer could have recognised his labourer in a rather dark shed at evening time – so the magistrates went when the light was about the same and decided that the identification was unsafe.
Now, I don’t think anybody involved was in much doubt that the offence had occurred (and was actually one of a sequence) but the labourer was pronounced not guilty by a bench which, in class warfare terms, might have been considered prejudiced against him.
As my landlady later said “When a man’s worked for you for a few years, you know what he smells like as well as what he looks like”. Nonetheless the law was observed in letter and spirit.
Nowadays , of course, there would have been the complication of a case by the labourer before an employment tribunal for unfair dismissal.
How times have changed!
Justice was done – the magistrates (farmers themselves) decided that this farmer could not have been sure of the identity of the person he spotted (and one man’s word against another is weak evidence in any case). The man may have been guilty – but. as you say Sir, he was not PROVED guilty (and the principles of good law go beyond all “class interests” they are part of the natural harmony of interests of all sections of civil society – rich and poor alike).
The implications for the case of Mr Harris should be obvious – but. sadly, do not seem to have been obvious to the court. As for “employment tribunals” – they are an outrage against the principles of private property (no one should be FORCED to employ someone else – it is a voluntary contractual relationship which may be ended by either party).
Good points from Mr West as well as from Mr Spalton.
Thanks Edward, I wasn’t aware of that saying – I’ll be looking into it (Dickens?). In the case against Harris, the English bench heard testimony from “witnesses” from Australia and New Zealand, which the English jury were not aware of. I think that is extraordinary. One problem with it is that the jury might have been unduly pressured by the presiding judge in his directions partially based on this anonymous testimony. This conjures up the spectre of the Star Chamber, which was ostensibly established to empower the weak against the strong, but evolved to serve the opposite cause.
The British justice system needs to tread carefully here. We are all aware of the hysteria surrounding the Jimmy Saville/BBC controversies. Mr Harris might have been chosen as a soft target (advanced age, odd-beat image etc) to allay some of the criticism. I say maybe. But my sixth sense tells me that secret (from the jury and the public) testimony is a dangerous precedent.
(thanks as well to Paul Marks for his comments)
I shall be following the outcome of the appeal with interest and concern. It would gratify me if, irrespective of the decision, the Court of Appeal were to admonish the trial judge over the admissibility of some evidence (see above), allowing Prosecuting Counsel to lead the witness and biased summing up. I am also tired of judges using “showed no remorse” as shorthand for “pleaded not guilty”, which, by the way, anyone accused is entitled to. In legal terms it does not mean ‘I didn’t do it, Guv’, but ‘you (Prosecution) prove I did it’. Proof was sadly lacking in this case and I agree with the above posts. I should also like to hear the Court of Appeal comment on the daily media circus outside Southwark Crown Court and whether there should be some restrictions on access, especially when well known celebrities are on trial. I find it deplorable accused persons and their families or supporters are forced to run the gauntlet daily and are then subjected to partial comments tending to contempt of court. Harris, for instance, was pilloried for a slight, nervous smile. The behaviour of the female BBC representative who attended for the sentencing hearing and shouted at Harris on the way in to court, “Have you got an apology for your victims, Mr Harris?” was an example of vulgar press yobbery, or in her case, laddettery, and it ought to be stopped.
Nowadays if I see an accusation of sexual abuse against anyone of any note I think to myself, “Oh Really.”
However, I am prepared to make an exception when it comes to politicians.
Good points Chris. How was Mr Harris supposed to respond to the journo’s (journess’s? – sorry, I’m Australian) question, shouted from the midst of that melee: “Have you got an apology for your victims, Mr Harris?” He could have (a) retorted wittily with something like “Yes, it’s in the mail !” – a clear illustration of his lack of remorse, or (b) broken down on bended knee, confessing all and begging for forgiveness under a welter of tears – definite proof of guilt, or (c) merely muttered “no comment” – a sure sign that he was trying to hide something.
Morton’s fork seems to have become a trident . . .
Yes, it ought to be stopped.
Not entirely surprisingly, Cliff Richard’s now in the frame. Presumably Plod are following their usual MO of announcing to the press that they’re “investigating” him (with usual high publicity raid of property) in the hope that some more allegators will “bravely come forward” to lard up the charge sheet.
Ian it just gets worse and worse.
You are right – I keep expecting Mr Hopkins to ride up.
Paul, the incredible thing is that the police haven’t even informed Richard of what allegation or charge he faces. They simply raided his home, and told the press he’s a “paedo”. It’s incredible that we’ve come to this.
I do not know anything about Cliff Richard’s personal life. But he does have a reputation as a genuinely Christian man who did not participate in the excesses of the rock’n’roll era and who once withdrew a single- “Honky Tonk Angel”- when he discovered it was about a prostitute, on moral grounds. It will be interesting to see what evidence the Paedofinder General actually has.
I suppose we will be hearing more about ‘victims’ rather than ‘complainants’ as the witch hunt rolls on. ‘Victim’, even when the word is placed in inverted commas in newspaper reports prior to the outcome of a trial, tells the masses that this is a … well, a victim, and therefore the person in the dock must be a ‘paedo’, no matter what the evidence (or lack of it). I do so wish that the press could somehow be forced to use ‘complainant’ prior to the outcome of a trial!
Ian and Misty – yes.
The legal system (both here and in the United States) is increasingly becoming a farce. With “perp walks” (the supposedly “innocent till proven guilty” accused forced to walk in chains in front of the cameras – thus poisoning the jury pool) and on and on.
Is there any nation on Earth where the legal system still keeps some connection to the principles of justice?
The Andrew Bolt case (persecution of a good man because he said something the P.C. elite did not like) showed that the Australian court system is a farce. What about New Zealand?
Is there justice anywhere?
Oh well – there is still the island of Sark.
… I think with Cliff Richard the police are on a fishing expedition (didn’t think that was legal, but what do I know).
I also think the calling out of the press by the police is reprehensible and part of a course of action which will ensure that the justice system cannot operate independently. The press reporting was also thoroughly reprehensible – including reporters telling us the movements of “innocent until otherwise proven anything else” Cliff Richards – none of our business.
It would appear that the police have misinterpreted the Christian imperative to be “fishers of men”.
You may well be right Ian.
Liz – it is hard not to despair (and despair is something I am prone to).
But one must carry on. Judging each legal case on its merits (or lack of them) and hoping (desperately) that, somehow, justice is done.
Justice does exist (it is not one thing for one nation and another or another nation – one thing in one century and another thing in an other century).
For example, those who frame the innocent know (deep down) that they do wrong.
Evil may appear to be a giant and good a pigmy – but one must struggle on.
Till the very moment of one’s own death (if the battle ends even then).
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Rolf Harris cleared of one charge of indecent assault on girl, 12 http://a.msn.com/r/2/AAmGZVl?m=en-gb&a=1