BBC rejects Rolf Harris probe

Last updated 17:59 03/07/2014
Rolf Harris
Reuters Zoom
Media surround Rolf Harris as he leaves court after being found guilty of 12 indecent assault charges.

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The BBC has rejected calls for it to investigate Rolf Harris's career at the corporation after the entertainer was convicted of sexually abusing four young girls over two decades.

Harris made his name on the BBC over 60 years, hosting shows for children, animal lovers and art fans.

British charity the National Association for People Abused in Childhood on Wednesday called on the BBC to launch an investigation after "turning a blind eye" to Harris's abuse.

Spokesman Peter Saunders said the corporation's attitude to the Harris case mirrored that taken with serial paedophile Jimmy Savile and jailed TV presenter Stuart Hall.

"Harris, like Savile, like Hall, was part of a corporation that helped cover up institutionalised abuse," he told British tabloid The Sun. "The BBC has to come clean to expose what has gone on."

However, a spokesman for the corporation said the Harris convictions "do not relate to the BBC".

"We already have the Dame Janet Smith review which is making an impartial and independent investigation into the past culture and practices of the BBC during the period Savile worked for the corporation," the spokesman said. "And, related to that, we commissioned an independent assessment of our current child protection and whistleblowing policies which will report later in the year."

The Dame Janet Smith review was commissioned to examine how Savile carried out a decades-long campaign of abuse.

BBC producer Tina Fletcher-Hill worked alongside Harris on Animal Hospital and then Rolf on Art. She appeared as a defence witness during his eight-week trial, describing the star as affectionate, kind and honest.

"He greets people with hugs, that's just Rolf," Ms Fletcher-Hill told Southwark Crown Court. "[But] I never witnessed anyone pulling back or feeling uncomfortable with his tactile nature."

The BBC in 2005 commissioned Harris to paint a picture of the Queen to mark her 80th birthday. That portrait is now missing, but Harris's regular artworks could suffer an even worse fate.

One gallery owner in Lincoln, 200 kilometres north of London, has vowed to destroy five works.

"It's virtually valueless," Nigel Robertson said. "I think they will be destroyed."

Auctioneers in Britain say the Australian's art has plummeted in value by 90 per cent following his conviction on Monday.

Harris will be sentenced on Friday.

He is the second person to be convicted under Operation Yewtree, which was set up following the Savile scandal. Publicist Max Clifford was jailed for eight years in May for indecently assaulting four young women between 1977 and 1984.

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