The Australian born 84-year-old television personality Rolf Harris, has many talents. Throughout his long career he has been an artist, musician, singer/songwriter, composer, and television presenter. He is famous worldwide; amongst other notable accolades he is famed for presenting the children’s television show Animal Hospital, he is also credited for the invention of the Wobble Board, an unusual musical instrument used in his concerts.
Harris is also well known for his charity work and was awarded the Centenary Medal for service to entertainment, charity and community in 2001. In 1968 he was appointed an MBE that was later advanced to OBE in 1977, then to CBE in 2006. In 2005 Harris was asked by the Queen to paint her portrait, which would mark her 80th birthday. According to his wife Alwen, with whom he lives in Berkshire, it is his love of painting that is now helping him through his current trial.
Detectives initially questioned Harris in November 2012, following historic accusations of 12 counts of indecency against four young women between the ages of 7 and 19. He denies all claims and was later released on bail. A hearing now ensues. His trial is part of the MET’s Operation Yewtree Inquiry, set up in the wake of the Jimmy Savile investigation, where the late star was found responsible for sexual indecency.
The case is particularly complex as one woman giving evidence is the former best friend of Rolf’s daughter Bindi. Nevertheless, the Harris family are embracing the strength that can be found in uniting together. Talking for the first time since her husband’s arrest, Rolf’s wife told reporters that the family had rallied around to support him, stating the trial has been ‘quite challenging”.
The trial may also be a challenge for the women giving evidence too; with one woman reporting that she experienced bulimia as a result of the claimed encounters. However, having her voice heard the trial is an opportunity for her to gain some closure on the matter and move forward. Whist the verdict is still pending, it is important to focus on what this means for modern justice. After the sentencing of five celebrities under Operation Yewtree, it is clear that the heightened awareness of these issues, and an increased focus from police, can help work towards a justice system that society can be confident in.
Due to the challenging work behind operation Yewtree, these women can seek confidence that their voices will be heard, and whilst Harris may be a celebrity, he continues to be prevented from immunity. This may help others sharing similar experiences come forward with the knowledge that they will be taken seriously. In turn the heightened visibility of the topic may challenge the taboo associated with sexual related issues and encourage us to discuss related situations more naturally and openly.
The fact that Harris is a celebrity brings the story into the limelight and creates heightened awareness of sexual related situations such as these. The trial of Harris and the former celebrities who have been questioned after such accusations may perturb others from committing such acts, in the knowledge that they will be brought to justice.
This case makes way for each party involved to embark on a huge growth opportunity. The fact that trials relating to sexual issues are now given sufficient validation allows both parties to give their side of the story – this shows justice and democracy. Regardless of the outcome, both sides have had their voices heard and the women involved have finally expressed themselves and their emotions with fair judgement.
This case allows one to reflect upon a change in our justice system, showing how it may be further revolutionised in the future. It is important to view these circumstances as constructive change. Many challenging incidents have brought about revolutionary law changes and altered the views of society as a whole. It is possible that this trial can do the same. Additional to this, women can be connected in their experiences and can come together to help themselves and others.
How do you feel that we can further the awareness of sexual issues in our society?