BBC rejects Rolf Harris probe

07:01, Jul 03 2014
Rolf Harris
Media surround Rolf Harris as he leaves court after being found guilty of 12 indecent assault charges.
Rolf Harris
Media surround Rolf Harris as he leaves court after being found guilty of 12 indecent assault charges.
Rolf Harris
Rolf Harris leaves court after the guilty verdict with his niece Jenny, wife Alwen and daughter Bindi.
Rolf Harris
Rolf Harris after the guilty verdict. It was indicated that he would likely serve a custodial sentence.

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.

Rolf Harris
Harris hosted the BBC's Animal Hospital for 10 years.
Rolf Harris
Harris with and Australian vet surgeon and dog during filming of the show Down Under.
Rolf Harris
Harris (R) with his brother Bruce at the Bassendean home, WA, in 1940, and together in 1996. Bruce was Rolf's long-time manager.
Rolf Harris
Performing Jake the Peg in 1970 on the Tommy Leonetti show.
Rolf Harris
He was crowned The King of Moomba in 1975. The title is bestowed during the popular Moomba festival in Melbourne.
Rolf Harris
Harris entertains Aboriginal children with his didgeridoo in King's Cross, Sydney, in 1965.
Rolf Harris
The didgeridoo was a staple of his act.
Rolf Harris
As was his wobble board invention, which he played each of the seven times he appeared at the Glastonbury festival in the UK.
Rolf Harris
Rolf Harris arrives with his daughter Bindi (L) and wife Alwen Hughes (2nd R) at Southwark Crown Court in London May 29, 2014.
Rolf Harris
Meeting the Queen, with Kylie Minogue, backstage after the Diamond Jubilee Buckingham Palace Concert in 2012.
Rolf Harris
Harris was made an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2012.
Rolf Harris
Performing his Jake the Peg routine in 2008, when he was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame.

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".

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"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.

AAP