What They Got Wrong In The Rolf Harris Trial

James Knight

A very interesting, but highly contentious, issue reared its ugly head yesterday as Rolf Harris was convicted of 12 counts of indecent assault.

What’s extremely contentious about the outcome is that he was charged under the sexual offences Act of 1956, because the offences happened at a time of old legislation. Basically, if he’d have done the same things now he would have received a heftier sentence, because cultural evolution has shifted people’s perspective and tolerance on crimes like paedophilia, with penalties now being severer.

Having had a night’s sleep on this, I don’t think it’s right that someone should receive a shorter sentence that has been matched to the legislative time of the crime(s). It seems clear to me that past crimes should be penalised according to the present legislation (and I mean this generally speaking, not just taking into account Rolf Harris’s situation).

Given that legislative measures and acts of jurisprudence are built on a cultural evolution of the increased wisdom and revisions of human beings over time, I’m of the view that sentencing for any crime should be administered according to the legislation of the time of the trial, not the offence – otherwise it rather undermines the perceived wisdom that went into the revision processes of jurisprudence over time.

My friend Mark made an interesting point; he warned that it could set a dangerous precedent. He says: “If we raised the age of consent to 18 we could then punish all those who had sex at 16″. My friend Jacqui added a terrific point which illustrates a thin end of the edge-type of caveat. She says: “We had Hanging back in the early 60s, so if somebody was now found guilty of murder back in 1960 do we get to hang them?”.

Quite! Apart from a difference in scale of penalty, the legislators at the Rolf Harris trial agreed with this action *in principle*, just not in practice. They were willing to penalise in accordance with past legislation – but only if it was the right kind of past of legislation (I’m certain that if tomorrow they had a trial in which a man was found guilty of committing murder in 1959 they would not sentence him to hanging).

The thing about Mark and Jacqui’s points, though, is that two different things are being conflated. Mark makes his point in relation to a change of law, whereas Jacqui makes her point in relation to a change of perception of appropriate sentencing.

The Rolf Harris incident should be assessed under the terms of Jacqui’s analogy because the Rolf Harris legislative issue is not to do with a change of law (his crimes were still illegal in the sixties) but a change in the perception of appropriate sentencing. The key difference is that if we raised the age of consent to 18 we could not reasonably punish all those who had sex at 16, because they were doing so at the time from within the orbit of the law. Conversely, in terms of jurisprudence, murderers that were hung in the 1950s differ from murderers now only to the extent that punitive measures differed – the act of murder was still against the law.

Hence, in conclusion, if revision of jurisprudence is to avoid being undermined, people should be convicted and sentenced under the (present) legislation at the time of their trial, not under the legislation of the time of their crimes, as Rolf Harris was.


  1. Never mind putrid “points of law” Jame Knight–the trial was a travesty of justice a prime fit-up. Write about that instead.

  2. I’d be interested in the views of our thread-people on this one, for I do, er, sort of, “small a rat” that is “floating in the air” about the GramsocFabaiFemiNazi pursuit of what might be called “old and decrepit white male 60s/70s/80s entertainers”.

    I think they “nailed” Max Clifford, because hed
    (a) Outlived his usefulness as a useful idiot,
    (b) was old and white and ugly and “probably surreptitiously right wing”,
    (c) had a reputation for helping the jilted-escort-girls of foot-ballists to make a lot of much-needed-press-money: this is a species of woman that the FemiNazis especially hate because they have exquisite breasts and are pretty and young and drive expensive cars.

    As an aside, of course every child of six knows that nobody likes these girls of course, because one is told not to by the Nazis. But that’s for another post sometime when I feel brave and my armour-belt is strong because I have tens of millions in the bank and can tell the entire world to go and take integrated advice concerning the tactical combination of far and long foreign travel with the sexually-procreative act itself.
    Excepting for my needs to defend a big libel case in that matter against GramscoFemiNazis and Gramsco-Journos, my old college will get £5 million, or more perhaps – depending on the actual size of my lottery win and the libel settlement in my favour.

    Furthermore, everybody over the age of about 65 knows what the case was in terms of “stars” and “young female persons” in the 1940s,50s, 60s and 70s at the least.

    If you were a “star” and male, then the deal was that the “venue”, or the “wireless station sponsoring” or the BBC or the like, would “let you do anything that you felt that you needed”. The young ladies at the gig were there, in large part, because “They Wanted To Have Your Babies”. They wanted that because “you were on the radio”.

    We,the young fells who also sometimes went to these shows, performances, concerts, screenings of radio shows and so on, knew that we couldn’t “get a girlfriend” at anything like one of those places, even when the girls’ “blood was up”. This was because they only had eyes for the “star”, or the “beat group” (such as the Beatles and the Stones and so on) and we were “nowhere”. We were “just square”. We were not “cool cats”. (“David, no I can’t go with you because you’re not really a cool cat. **** ****** is a cool cat, I’m going to try to go backstage afterwards to “meet” him, so can you just go home?”)

    Now that the ageing harridans and hags see money, they “come forward”.

    Am I not right, at least in some little measure?

  3. Jame Knight is talking bollocks.

    Given that legislative measures and acts of jurisprudence are built on a cultural evolution of the increased wisdom and revisions of human beings over time

    This basically the dunderheaded “Progressive” belief that things can only get better, so any revision must be an “improvement” over the previous thing. So long as they did it. If somebody else did it (like Maggie Thatcher) it’s a temporary and regrettable deviance from the upward path. Effectively it relies on the same mental error common to many “natural rights” libertarian types, who think there is an objective moral and ethical code out there and all you have to do is progressively reveal it; which arguably itself descends from Christian ideas of progressive revelation.

    The problem with the Rolfing of Western society is twofold; firstly that it’s not getting us any better; just different, and that morals, being subjective, have changed in the many intervening years such that although much the same statutes are in place, the actual interpretation of them is radically different. Neither Rolf, his accusers, nor anyone else in the 1960s or 1970s could have been expected to act in accordance with a deranged model of human psychology that had not been invented yet and was not to appear on our shores until Oprah Winfrey started spewing her sofa-based excretia onto our televisions.

    But oh, what the hell. Anyone who would buy into this lunacy is probably beyond reason anyway.

    • Ian B, you have reacted against a proposition I didn’t make – although maybe I should have been clearer. However, opening with ‘James is talking bollocks’ without attempting to engage further is not the best way to be.

      In talking about improvements I was really referring to the general trend – in that crimes like rape, child sex offences, racism, homophobia, and social legacies like sexism, misogyny, etc belong to a class of behaviour that society used to treat too lightly, or with not enough legal force, but are now (rightly in my view) treated more seriously.

      However, I agree with you that not all changes in law are for the better – quite the contrary in many cases.

      • Homophobia is (or should be) a crime?

        Do you really think that thoughts (or other purely mental or emotional responses to certain stimuli) are properly within the purview of statute law? In other words, do you actually mean that thought-crime exists, and that to be not in favor of homosexuality or homosexuals (whether male or female) in and of itself should be criminally actionable?

      • Are you JAmes Knight?

        rape, child sex offences, racism, homophobia, and social legacies like sexism, misogyny,

        This is a class composed of apples and oranges. The first two are the same thing- rape- and covered by both negative rights and laws which already existed. The rest are Progressive thoughtcrimes of various types predicated on an statist positive rights model. The assumption that rape was treated too lightly is itself Progressivist, based on a dubious claim to a vast quantity of hidden offending, combined with an expansion of the term into a “spectrum”, which has got us into this McCarthyist mess of hauling octaganerians into court for supposed offences that happened decades ago.

        Moral values, like economic values, are subjective and ordinal rather than cardinal. The result is that there will always, in any society, be a constant desire to reorder the value set. That is, in practical terms, to alter the tarrifs. Whether or not some new ordering is better than some ol ordering is down to personal taste. Me, I’m a liberal type libertarian so don’t much care for demands for intensification of punishments (Hang’em and Flog’em). But that’s just me.

        When however I see laws being extended over what- in a negative rights sense- are not crimes at all (e.g. “racism” or “sexism” or “homophobia”) and I see the reordering of the moral value set on things which are crimes being driven by blatant dishonesty and agitprop- as with the Feminist induced hysterias about sex, sex crimes etc, I smell a particularly stinky rat.

        We have thrown away due process, effectively. We have a kind of equivalent of what Feynman called “cargo cult science”; let’s call it “cargo cult justice”. It looks the same as a justice system. It has the wigs and gowns, the jury, the rules of argument. But the principles have been hollowed out. The basis of a genuinely just system- which boils down to the cliche of saying “you can’t prove it, I must walk free” has gone. We now have a system where the State replies, “we don’t need to prove it, lol sucks to be you”. Any libertarian should be intensely concerned about this. However one characterises it, it is not progress.

    • I think you’re right Ian. I think “progressive” liberalism at the core of this article. It seems to suggest that people should be punished in a way today that may not have been seen the same in the past, or, to push it further, even been a crime in the past.

      It is hardly right to punish somebody for crimes which may not have even been invented yet, or to take on board the hysteria of modern liberal outrages (against heretics) when assessing actions done generations ago!

      When it comes to “crime”…… I don’t see how ideologically constructed crimes, such as “racism” “homophobia”, “sexism”, “mysogeny” or “hate crimes” (or whatever else) should be any part of requiring ‘legal force’, and unlike the Philosophical Muser, I do not consider them to be crimes in a free society or that people should be witch-hunted over them as they are today.

      Rape, child sex offences, and so on are entirely different from these ‘thought crimes’ and ‘causing people offence’. Nobody should have the right to not be offended.

      Although I also find it distasteful for people to rant on stupidly about other races or about homosexuals (ie giving them all the names and issuing the crass outbursts to individuals, often when drunk), there are also valid reasons as to why somebody may be (in liberal societies eyes) “racist” or, for example, against the agenda of normalising and equalising homosexuality – which in modern parlance, in liberal Britain, is “homophobia” and “backwardness” to their “progressive” future.

      It is quite dangerous in my opinion for people to pontificate on these things and advocate punishments for folk holding contrary views, wanting to crush them down, stamp them out, etc, without ever appreciating another argument as to why they may hold them.

      I am not talking about the morons who are just foul mouthed and nasty, but genuine “racists” and “homophobes” who rail against liberal agendas for good reason and not just ‘ignorance’ or ‘hatred’.

      Even then, when it comes to people mouthing off, like Emma West (The Tram Woman) or a recent case in Leicester which saw a man sent to prison for over 12 months for his “racist outbursts” – people may not like it, people may be offended by it on the receiving end, but it is my view that people should not be in court, let alone prison, for simply opening their mouths and speaking.

      The guy in the case I mention was an idiot, I cannot defend his actions – but it was clearly a liberal-minded judge, liberal minded police system, liberal minded legislation and liberal minded justice systems that issued this prison time. It is ideological enforcement, not justice.

  4. Talk of raising the age of consent is sooo outmoded.
    The activist homosexual movement still has not given up on reducing (or even abolishing) the age of consent for “loving” sexual relationships between children and adults. It was very fashionable when Harriet Harperson and hubby were on the National Council for Civil Liberties and regarded it as a civil liberties issue. That is why PIE (The Paedophile Information Exchange) was an affiliate. You might even say it was a libertarian issue! And, of course, the lobby now has most favoured access to Downing Street where they will be making their next demand after homosexual “marriage”.

    As for charging people under the law at the time the offences were committed – this raises an interesting point.
    The late Norris McWhirter and Rodney Atkinson laid information of treason before the courts of England and Scotland against Douglas Hurd and Francis Maude when they were negotiating the Maastricht treaty. There was absolutely no doubt that what they were attempting (successfully) to do was treason under numerous statutes and precedents – principally bringing the person of the monarch under restraint as a “citizen” of the EU and that they were overthrowing the “happy constitution” which had previously existed.

    After the passing of the Maastricht Bill, the authorities said that made everything all right retrospectively so prosecution would not be “in the public interest”.

    If the authorities were to take a different view in the fairly near future, the trial would be most interesting, as the death penalty for treason still applied at the time

    • PIE are all in prison or dead. Last I heard they’d locked up the last stragglers for looking at Japanese hentai cartoons. You’re about 40 years out of date.

      The Gays were long ago brought to heel by the Feminists, such that nowadays they’re campaigning to be old fashioned married couples. There simply isn’t any secret libertine agenda; the whole Progressive Left have been moving in the opposite direction since the 1980s.

      • Ian B
        Not according to Peter Tatchell. Age 14 appears to be the present target.

        • Age 14 would be a lot more sensible in terms of biology, but the actual push is upwards towards 18, in other words in the opposite direction. The assault on our society is not coming from a liberal direction, and political correctness is neither liberal nor libertine.

          I find it continually baffling how anyone can stand here in the midst of a society so gripped by sexual hysteria that it’s throwing octagenerians in jail for possibly touching a teenager’s bottom 40 years ago and claim that there is some kind of plot to throw us into a morass of decadent sexual corruption. It’s like somebody in 1930s Germany claiming that the Nazis are a pro-Jewish conspiracy.

          I do appreciate that during the libertine era (that is now being repudiated) it seemed reasonable to conservatives that the left were trying to bring down society with dope smoking free love etc, but for God’s sake that was forty fucking years ago. It just doesn’t fit what is actually happening now, in the 21st century.

          • Ian, that’s precisely what the left cheerfully and openly said they were doing at that time. They sang pop songs about it to audiences of tens of thousands, and had “records” pressed and published and sold in record shops. They got DJs and radio hosts to dress and grow hairy hair like the singers. They proselytized hugely and publicly about how “good” people’s lives would be if we all followed the hippytrail.

            Oh, and of course they knew – or found all the answers to – how to solve “all the world’s problems”. Whether via the various shifty-looking “Gurus” or from crap such as EST. They invented themselves as the first publicly-recognisable experts in things like “resources”, “poverrty”, the “environment” (and you know all the rest.) Their natural successors are the pop singers and their wives and Hollywood actroids that jet about the world hectoring and bullying people, pretending to not fell rain forests, being photographed near people “lifting mines” etc. Scumbag leftoNazi destroyers of the Liberal West on purpose they are, having looted it for themselves first.

            As a really tightly focussed and strategically-targetted PR campaign for lefty droppoutism and “smashing the system” (remember that?) I couldn’t have bettered it myself, no, not even in my days as an “account director” in London Ad-agencies.

  5. Ian is right: Cultural norms, mores, perceptions of what is or isn’t “right,” change, and not always for the better. That is why nowadays we have so many downright pernicious laws such as anti-trust, government control of the economy, laws aimed at providing “Social Justice” in its many and diverse areas, such as anti-discrimination laws on the one hand and the redistribution of wealth on several of the others. Most of these are now generally more-or-less approved of amongst the public at large, although there’s a variety of opinion as to how far along the “social justice” path we should go.

    I would assume that that is one of the reasons for statutes of limitations. (Another being the increasing difficulty of properly trying old crimes, as both witnesses and records have an unfortunate habit of disappearing with the years, and even memories grow more and more unreliable.)

    But it is a principle of American jurisprudence, which I’m pretty sure was not dreamt up by the Colonists but rather harks back to the Mother Country’s EXCEPTIONAL history of jurisprudential principles, that “There shall be no retroactive law.” That’s because of the principle going back to Draco (if I remember my High-School world history correctly, always a dangerous bet to take) that any laws holding a person to account for an act must be knowable by him at the time he performs the act.

    This principle is increasingly being flouted. There are now cases of the Social Security Administration’s going after relatives of people who for whatever reason paid too little FICA tax or took too much in SSA benefits 40 or more years ago…and we are not talking about any ill intent; the people paid and got what they thought they, and the SSA per its paperwork of the time, were supposed to, under the rules of the time. Let me see. Paul probably knows, but I’m sure there have been cases recently where the government has tried to bring persons and businesses before the Bar of “Justice” for acts that were not illegal when committed (nor immoral either, come to that). There’s been some attempt — I think — to strike down the principle of “no ex post facto laws” in the U.S.

    I ask you, Mr. J. Q. Public: Do you want to live your life under a so-called “rule of law” according to which you may, at any instant, be punished because you shot a spotted owl in Mexico (I think its actual native habitat, though I forget for sure) in 1929? Or had, and used, a wood-burning stove in northern Minnesota in the winter of 1977? Or at age 17, in 1960, received from your great-aunt Henrietta an airgun she purchased, in your absence, from a Registered Firearms Dealer, in contravention of the Provisions 32 and 33 of the Violent Crime Reduction Act signed into law in November, 2006, and “implemented” [egad! I hate that] in 2007:

    Section 32:
    RFD airgun sales will have to take place face-to-face with both the buyer and seller present.

    Section 33:
    The age at which air guns are possessed and purchased will be raised from 17 to 18 years of age (See BASC’s Air rifle code of practice below)

    Retroactive laws are unconscionable, anything-goes, “deuces-wild” legal abominations and a most powerful tool of lawless rulers.

    • Damn, I thought no one knew about that spotted owl I shot back in 1929 – maybe I can plead self-defence?

      • I dunno, Rob, it looks very dicey. Johnny Cochran? Gerry Spence? I hardly know whom to recommend to handle such a serious case….

  6. Oh. So-called “Hate Crimes.” Well, why is bashing somebody’s head in because it annoys you that he or she is homosexual than because it annoys you that he or she had $ 50 in wallet or purse that you’d like, or because he or she annoys the heck out of you, or because you got paid to do the deed?

    As I see it, the invention of “hate crimes” with heftier sentences than the same crime would carry if not committed out of “hate,” has caused all sorts of trouble in the legal system. You get the kind of thing where if somebody murders a homosexual, a Muslim, a Jew, a member of the Harvard Law School, it’s automatically a “hate crime” and the perp is even toastier than the ordinary killer.

  7. That’s right Julie. I think “hate crimes” are a complete nonsense and they are in my opinion an ideologically driven tool of enforcing liberal-left outlooks and agendas more than anything else.

    You cannot and should not criminalise “emotion”. Hate is an emotion. Nor is “hate” all that well defined or really always an accurate description of the motive anyway. I do not think the liberal perceived ’emotional’ motive, or motives in general, should be factored into crime and punishment.

    I often make the same point myself about, say, a Muslim man, or homosexual man, who may have been beaten up or stabbed by another person.

    The crime is the beating up and stabbing, not the thinking or emotion that may have led the person to do it. The victim is dead or injured just the same as if a thief had done it, who may have wanted to steal their fancy phone or their wallet.

    The rest is ideological punishment, that, I believe, in the case of ‘race hate’, can carry an extra seven years in prison.

    So if a man murders a another man and blurts out some racial slur as it happens, or is known to be a member of a ‘racist political party’, or both, he can look forward to another seven years prison compared to a petty thief who remained silent, who was not affiliated with a ‘racist party’ and just as brutally killed somebody for material gain.

  8. That pre-supposes they are “victims” and not attention-seeking nutters and gold-diggers”. Re-read the blog entry about Harris and the “7 year-old” who claims to have been abused at an event that they can’t prove ever even happened let alone that Harris was there let alone that he did anything.
    What has now transpired is that Radical Feminist scum have succeeded in their vile aim–that anyone in this country with a penis can be railroaded into jail on accusations alone–supported by zero evidence.

  9. Vanessa Feltz is now claiming to be a victim. Either she’s lying, or Rolf Harris is a very, very sick man indeed.

    Sadly the Daily Mail didn’t publish my comment, in which I said, “the question is, if he got his hand in there, how he got it back out again”. They have no sense of humour.

  10. Anyone who thinks that my pious old grannie could possibly be treated now as a criminal under today’s legislation, and ‘punished’ according to the application of the ‘standards’ today’s of some conclave of latter day saints, as this treatise would seem to not only allow for, but actively encourage, for, as an example, something as innocuous in her cultural frame of reference as merely describing her gloves as being the colour which they were called by everyone else in her youth, is seriously deranged

    Leaving aside the liturgy of libertarianism, or any other ‘ism, this is quite simply stupid

  11. Yes, it’s me – James Knight.

    It’s interesting that some people here want such a free society that even things like racism and homophobia are not crimes when acted out.

    I’m not saying you’re wrong – I actually find the demarcation line quite a tough one to draw. For example, take the recent Christian Bakers in Ulster issue – I think businesses should be free to serve who they want and harbour any kind of prejudices they want. But equally I find discriminating against gays abhorrent, and would hope that when they discriminate they are hit in the wallet by lost custom.

    I’m not just sure how far we libertarians should take our espousal of freedom and liberty. For example, if it goes far enough that we think people are free to display a ‘no blacks’ sign in our café window then presumably you’d agree that that’s a bit too much liberty, right?

    And then we have this from BBC News:

    “David Cameron made a joke that referred to the Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow as one of the Seven Dwarfs. Mr Bercow, who is 5ft 6in tall, has questioned why it is somehow acceptable to criticise people over their height, when attacking someone for their skin colour or sexuality is widely accepted as wrong. ”

    Where is it all going to end?

    • It will end when our Betters, and soi-disant “journalists” once again become sufficiently acquainted with the English language to know how to form the plural of words ending in “f” — dwarf, dwarves; hoof, hooves; just as half, halves and calf, calves. Which, I imagine, will be never.

      Concerned Briton on 6 July, 2014 at 11:59 am has written a really excellent comment about this. Says it all. But to reiterate:

      If an act is a crime when race, “sexual orientation,” etc. is positively known not to be a factor, then it is neither less nor more so when those considerations are positively known to be a factor.

      No one is saying that crimes against members of Victim Group X are not crimes because the act was done out of “hate” for some member of V.G. X.

      But libertarians — real libertarians — understand that no one may be forced to do anything against his will (except when he is being justly punished for his own unjust aggression, or when he has attacked someone unjustly). That is a bedrock principle of libertarianism, and it applies to bakers who don’t wish to make wedding cakes for homosexuals or little short Speakers of the House, and it applies to people who want to put up signs in their windows saying “We request that X’s take their custom elsewhere.” (If the society stays halfway healthy, which it won’t as long as members of V.G.X are always assumed to have a legitimate complaint against ANYONE who offends them or damages their wallets or their bodies on account of their X-ness, such signs will come down as the business owner feels its effects on his cash register.)

      Real libertarians also understand, by the way, that there is nothing wrong with choosing not to patronise shop S because its owner is a foreigner, not a foreigner, has black hair, has green eyes, is anatomically female, is not anatomically female, is a member of the Labour Party, or had a great-great-great-great grandfather who fought with the Dutch in the Boer War. Or who cross-dresses, or smokes cigarettes.

      • By the way.

        “If an act is a crime when race, “sexual orientation,” etc. is positively known not to be a factor, then it is neither less nor more so when those considerations are positively known to be a factor.”

        As a purely practical matter, “positively known” is unlikely in any of these cases. This adds another layer of confusion and the opportunity for legal mischief (i.e., unjust treatment: wrongdoing) to the process of deciding in favor of acquittal or conviction for the person being tried.

        Presumably most states in the U.S. do not, or used not, to present “motivation” as an element of acceptable evidence at trial, despite all the Police Procedurals that talk about “means, motivation, opportunity” as the factors leading police designate Z as a suspect in some crime.

        For instance, suppose Joe Blow rage sounds off about the awful dreadfulness of Obama. He explains all the horrible things the Sith has done that make his life hell. (Believe me, thus far we are not in storyland!) He even says, “I’d like to k*** that S.O.B.”

        Subsequently the August Non-personage is, indeed, rendered a nullity. Joe Blow was nearby, and satisfied all three of the criteria: he had the means (he’s *gasp* the owner of a gunshop!), the motive, as above, and the opportunity: this all takes place as the Incumbent and his entourage are passing in front of Joe’s Gunshop in Burlington, Vt.

        This might interest the cops (and especially the Secret Service) enough to question Joe and look into his background a bit, but it’s nowhere near enough to charge him, let alone bring him to trial. And if they did, Jimmy Stewart and Perry Mason would both be on the case in a flash.

    • I find it much more interesting that people in our society have become so conditioned by liberal propaganda (for so long) that they now automatically consider “homophobia” and “racism” to be some sort of crime in the first place, whether it is being “acted out” or not.

      Regarding the sign, my personal preference (in an ideal world) would be for this country not to even have anybody of that nature here in England to be offended in the first place.

      No doubt you will find such a position “abhorrent” – but have you ever actually fully considered why somebody may hold such views? That is the trouble with liberal perspectives we see in wider society, they usually don’t – and thus see no problem in making opposing forces against the law.

    • I share your misgivings. Apart from Blogs like yours, however, I have found next to nothing in the way of mainstream comment on the trial. It’s as if no one dares to risk their own reputation by appearing to step out of line, or possibly an appeal is expected, but I doubt that. There have been calls for all Harris’s artwork to be destroyed (Guardian Art critic, for one) and sober middle aged citizens declaring he ought to have got ten years in jail – which he would probably not survive – ‘good’, they say. It is truly appalling how public opinion can be so manipulated. The fact is, the Sexual Offences Act 2003 was passed as a sop to radical feminist opinion, outraged at the low conviction rate for rape and sexual offences generally. But of course that is because of the private and often domestic, circumstances in which they take place. As Dr Sean Gabb pointed out on here, the Act has undermined the concept of ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ and replaced it with the lower civil standard of ‘on a balance of probabilities’, just for sexual offences and especially those against children (re-defined as anyone under the age of 18). By the way, as the Law now stands, a female of 16 can marry, with parental consent, but if her partner took a photograph of her in the nude, he could be prosecuted for a child sex offence.
      During the Rolf Harris trial, I was amazed when Leading Counsel for the prosecution asked RH about his remark to the then 13 year old alleged victim “You look nice in your bikini”. Counsel: “That was a sexual remark, wasn’t it?” Harris: “I suppose so”. My first thought was, bad mistake by Harris, who was denying any sexual relationship with the girl before she was 18; but why had the judge allowed Counsel to lead the witness? Why was RH’s counsel asleep, apparently? If you agree with me, I have bad news for you. I have had a look at the Sexual Offences Act 2003 and the definition of ‘Sexual’ therein:
      “For the purposes of this Part (1) …, penetration, touching or any other activity is sexual if a reasonable person would consider that –
      (a) whatever its circumstances or any person’s purpose in relation to it, it is because of its nature sexual, or
      (b) because of its nature it may be sexual and because of its circumstances or the purpose of any person in relation to it (or both) it is sexual.”
      Thus any activity, e.g. passing a remark, is ‘sexual’ if (b) above. How is that for a fit-up, in the circumstances of the case? And beware, fathers, uncles and grandfathers, what you say, or you might be ‘fitted up’ too.
      There is much, much more that could be written and I hope, will be, about this disgraceful trial, but I shall end by observing that it is no credit to British Justice.

      • “but why had the judge allowed Counsel to lead the witness?” One of the things that suggests that Rolf might indeed possibly be innocent is he seems so naive about how the Criminal Justice System works. If you want to survive on the witness stand the sensible possible is to say as little as possible. Know your story. Stick to your story. Dont be distracted and if it’s the truth there’s nothing much they can do. It is their job to ask questions and your job to answer them. It is not your responsibility to respond to vague statements that are not even questions. Never go down memory lane with a QC …they are only taking you down it to attempt to get you to contradict your own testimony. And never enter into philosophical discussion with a QC. Their business is the facts of the case – not philosophical issues about the sexuality of clothing. If they want to engage in idle speculation let them do it on their own. They have only two reasons for asking questions – either to undermine your testimony by getting you to contradict yourself …or to trick you into incriminating yourself. Can you tell which this was yet?

        • Part of the problem though is that being too reluctant to answer appears evasive, and the jury will think you’ve something to hide. That is pretty crucial in a case like this where there is no evidence, and it is just down to who they believe- which may come down to just who they find most likeable. Which is why Max Clifford didn’t stand a chance.

          The problem for the person on the witness stand is that they don’t have much time to consider an answer, and may not have much debating skill; this kind of cross-examination being basically a form of debate. I can think of several much better answers, but I’m not an elderly man facing ruin in the hot seat of the witness box, and I’m a virtually obsessive debater who has spent years learning by experience when to spot a fallacy, a leading argument, a trap, and to avoid them (at least some of the time).

          For instance there is a gaping hole in Wass’s argument, which is her presumption that a bikini is sexualised clothing. A skilled debater could have turned that around on her and made it look as if she was implying that any woman- including a child- who wears a bikini is sexualising themself and “asking for it”, thus making her look unreasonable (particularly in the eyes of women on the jury who wear bikinis).

          But that’s with time to think about it, in the comfort of my own home. Not stuck in a courtroom.

          One other thing is that I hadn’t until these cases realised that our system has so degenerated that we’re putting defendants in glass boxes, like caged animals. It’s deplorable. One good thing the American system has done is abolish the dock, and have the defendant sit with their lawyer at a table. I find the concept of these “dock prisons” absolutely appalling.

  12. I still quite literally cannot comprehend how someone gets convicted on the basis of verbal evidence dating back 30+ years given by persons who at the time were young and impressionable and whose memories could have been twisted in any number of ways. There simply cannot be any hard evidence in this case. (a man watching porn is not evidence, it’s character assassination) I find it even harder to believe when lawyers are involved and a large pot of gold is waiting for them. This entire case reminds me of a Bonfire of the vanities. i.e. it’s a crock. Why was nothing ever done or said years ago? People are simply to quick to believe anything especially when sexual offences are involved. Apparently the nature of the crime convicts you not the evidence. It’s all utter and complete nonsense. A jury finding you guilty doesn’t mean you are guilty. Just ask the thousands of men jailed for rape only to be released when DNA evidence proved it wasn’t them. Their lives were destroyed on basis of word of mouth testimony. A trial without hard evidence is merely a statistical exercise in probabilities. That’s not fact.

  13. “A trial without hard evidence is merely a statistical exercise in probabilities.”

    And not a very good exercise, at that.

    • Actually, your opening statement is not correct. The Sexual Offences Act 1956 was largely repealed (except for sections dealing with brothel-keeping) when the Sexual offences Act 2003 was passed. No one can be charged under an obsolete law. Rolf Harris was charged under the new statute, but when it came to sentencing, he was treated according to the sentencing regime in force at the time of the offences. Hence the relatively short sentence, many commentators have complained about and which was immediately referred to the Attorney General to decide whether the Crown should appeal. As the Attorney General has been replaced today, I wonder if this will be taken forward. I hope not, as I consider it was cruel and unnecessary to send Harris to prison at all. The many things wrong with the trial have been explored at length on this Blog. Of more concern, however, is the lack of mainstream media comment on the decline in standards of our judicial system and the blood-curdlingly nasty comments from so many armchair judges and eligible jurors.

  14. “In the session that Dr Maliver reports, a girl of 26 found the fingers of the analyst inside her vagina and became psychotic. She had previously, unknown to the medicine man ROLFING her, been hospitalized for acute psychosis after having been raped”. . . Quoted from Ed Dieckmann jr: Beyond Jonestown; Sensitivity training and the cult of mind control

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