Rolf Harris: Victims' groups decry lack of appeal

01:26, Jul 31 2014
Rolf Harris
CONVICTED: Australian-born entertainer Rolf Harris.

Child protection groups say victims of sexual abuse have been let down by the decision not to appeal the sentence handed down to Rolf Harris.

The UK government announced on Wednesday (local time) it would not refer Rolf Harris's jail sentence for sex offences back to the Court of Appeal for reconsideration, despite receiving 150 complaints from the public.

Attorney General Jeremy Wright said the five year and nine month sentence would stand.

Harris was found guilty of 12 indecent assaults against four girls, aged between eight and 15.

Because of the date of the offences, Harris' age, his state of health and his wife's frail health, the sentencing judge considered that a prison term would be more onerous for the 84-year-old Australian entertainer, and so should be shortened.

Victims groups criticised the decision.


Fay Maxted, chief executive of the Survivors Trust, told the Daily Telegraph she was "obviously disappointed" the sentence had not been referred for reconsideration.

"Generally, sentences for such crimes appear to be so lenient and so lacking in appreciation of what the victims have gone through," she said.

"The victims have to live under a life sentence, because they deal with the aftermath of these crimes for decades."

Earlier this month when the sentence was handed down Ms Maxted said the sentence reflected how little society understood of the impact of sexual abuse on children.

"Even using present day law and guidelines, sentencing often fails to reflect the seriousness of the impact of sexual abuse on victims," she said.

Alan Wardle, head of policy at the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, told the Telegraph on Wednesday that Harris's crimes were "some of the most horrendous possible" and there had been a sense that a tough punishment was required.

However the statement from the Attorney General's office explained that his hands were tied.

"The Attorney General understands that his decision not to refer the case may be a disappointment to some people; however, he did give extremely careful consideration to this sentence and he concluded that he could not refer it," the statement concluded.

A sentence will only be referred back for reconsideration if it is 'unduly lenient' - falling significantly below the length that any judge could reasonably have imposed.

Under UK law and regulations, Harris is likely to be released on parole once he has served half his sentence.

The sentencing judge was bound by the maximum sentences in force at the time of the offences, in the late 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.

"The overall sentence had to be just and proportionate to the overall offending," the statement said. "The judge was also required to take into account the age of the offender."

Sydney Morning Herald