Harris' conviction won't be the last

MICHAEL CUMMINGS EDITOR
Last updated 12:00 02/07/2014

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Rolf Harris' spectacular fall from grace, completed this week when he was convicted of a raft of sex offences against girls and young women, is yet another chapter in a broader story.

The narrative running through that story has become clear: during last century there existed a sickening culture of rich, famous and influential men exploiting their status as a means to sexually abuse women and children with impunity.

British TV personality Sir Jimmy Savile was without doubt the most egregious case to come to light. Since his death in 2011, hundreds of people of all ages have come forward with sex abuse allegations, many of them detailing horrific acts of abuse spanning decades. Police believe Savile could be the UK's most prolific serial sex offender.

The Savile scandal sparked Operation Yewtree, a Metropolitan Police investigation into historic sex abuse allegations. It led to celebrity publicist Max Clifford, who was earlier this year found guilty of eight counts of indecent assault against young women and girls dating back to the 1960s. It also led to Harris.

The similarities between the cases are striking and disturbing. The audacity of the offenders, particularly Savile and Harris, was stunning. It reveals a celebrity culture where fame wasn't just a shield against the mundane realities of normal life, it was a shield against the law. The sense of entitlement these men possessed was breathtaking. They saw themselves as so special, so important, they could take whatever they wanted and the normal consequences simply did not apply to them.

The real tragedy of these cases is that the arrogant assumptions of Savile, Clifford and Harris were largely correct.

They offended for decades, their belief that they were untouchable presumably emboldened them each time they preyed on a victim and people turned a blind eye.

Savile died without being held to account, Clifford was 70 when convicted, and Harris was 84. That these three were only outed after decades of abuse makes one wonder how many other celebrity sex offenders might have been more fortunate.

One thing seems clear: The conviction of Harris will not be the end of it. The spotlight will now quite rightly turn to those who enabled the offending of these men. There must be hundreds of them. Seduced by fame, they pretended not to see what was happening right in front of them.

They too should be called to account. There have been too many victims, too many lives ruined, for tough, uncomfortable questions not to be asked.

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One more thing:

New Zealand might not have a team at the Fifa World Cup, but we appear to have a genuinely world class cricket team for the first time in a long time.The Black Caps’ test series victory over the West Indies in Barbados this week was a huge achievement, and confirms we have a side capable of consistent success

- Manawatu Standard

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