Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 December 2014

Jimmy Savile sex abuse scandal: Why has Rolf Harris' name only come out now?

Rolf Harris was arrested by police investigating sexual abuse allegations
Rolf Harris was arrested by police investigating sexual abuse allegations

After five months as an open secret, Rolf Harris – the artist formerly known as “Yewtree 5” – was named as a sex crime suspect after it emerged that his lawyers cited the Leveson report to try to stop the media from identifying him.

His name had been widely aired online, but Mr Harris was identified by the press for the first time as the man in his 80s who was questioned last year, on the day that Lord Justice Leveson's report was published.

 

The saga has raised questions about the practice of naming people who have been arrested but not charged.

 

In letters to some publications, the law firm Harbottle & Lewis said "there is no public interest in publishing such content as is entirely self-evident following the publication of the Leveson report". The firm did not respond to requests for comment.

 

Mr Harris, 83, had not been named following his questioning in November or his arrest this year, unlike other high-profile celebrities held during Scotland Yard's sprawling investigation sparked by the outing of Jimmy Savile as a prolific sex offender.

 

No police force in Britain names the people it arrests, usually referring to suspects only by their general location and age. Named suspects have been identified through lawyers, agents or neighbours, or after prominent police activity at their homes.

 

The apparent reluctance across the media to name Mr Harris appears to have a number of reasons: the unwillingness of his own representatives to confirm the arrest, the lack of sightings, and the timing of the Leveson report.

 

One newspaper story that claimed he had been treated at the Priory clinic also raised questions over his welfare in the event of publication. However, the decision by The Sun to lead the way followed a high-profile public performance by Mr Harris at the Royal Festival Hall in London in February.

 

In his report, Lord Justice Leveson wrote: "I think that it should be made clear that save in exceptional and clearly identified circumstances (for example, where there may be an immediate risk to the public), the names or identifying details of those who are arrested or suspected of a crime should not be released to the press or the public."

 

However, Chief Constable Andrew Trotter, who is drawing up guidelines for the Association of Chief Police Officers, drew a distinction between suspects being named by police and being revealed through research. "The police will only give out very limited information and will not confirm any names except in circumstances to prevent or detect crime, or some other reason in the interests of justice," he said.

 

The Australian-born entertainer is one of 12 people arrested under Operation Yewtree including the former pop star Gary Glitter, DJ Dave Lee Travis, comedians Freddie Starr and Jim Davidson, and PR guru Max Clifford. All deny any wrongdoing.

 

Mr Harris was held on suspicion of sexual offences and has been bailed until next month. Reporters who rang the buzzer at Harris's home in Bray, Berkshire, this morning were told "no comment" by a man who answered. His agent did not return calls.

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