Monday, 30 June 2014

Was Rolf Harris Mr Jekyl or Mr Hyde?

Rolf Harris when arrested.
Today has been so hectic ever since the jury returned guilty verdicts on all 12 counts and convicted Rolf Harris of abuse of 4 girls. I have discussed the story on Radio 5 Live, then BBC News 24, Radio Wales, and Radio London, followed tomorrow by a clip for Breakfast tomorrow.

The theme remains the same - Harris was a Jekyl and Hyde character who fooled everyone. Savile was the same, but perhaps not as genial. Some said Savile was a frightening individual who you didn't cross, not only because he had been an all in wrestler in contrast to Harris whose hobby was less physical in the form of art.

The likenesses and differences are:-

  • They both did endless work for charity.
  • They both worked with children.
  • They both entertained children.
  • They both used their media profile to hoodwink victims into a state of trust.
  • They both had connections with many individuals very high up in Society - Savile with Margaret Thatcher, and Harris painted the Queen.
  • They both worked in the field of popular music which inevitably brought about meetings with adoring fans including children.
  • Neither was discovered until in their 80's, Savile obviously after death.
  • Savile is dead - obviously thus making it easier to report what happened without fear of a libel suit.
  • Savile used his connections with those in authority to shield himself from action by victims eg. Leeds Police, and threats of action by using his "mates" in authority.
  • Savile appears to have liked all types of victims including
    • Boys
    • Girls
    • The disabled
    • Hospital Patients
    • Dead Bodies (yes believe it or not he was seen to visit the mortuaries in various hospitals including Leeds and Haute de la Garenne in Jersey)
  • Harris on the other hand only appears to have had an interest in the female sex according to the media stories.
  • Savile was feared in his lifetime, and known to be an "odd" character who never married, whereas Harris appears to have lived a "normal" family life.
So what will the sentence be on Friday - not as long as the victims want, I predict. The judge will be hampered again by the law which puts a cap on sentences which relate to offences taking place a long time ago when the punishment was different, on the basis that if Harris had been prosecuted at the time of the offences, the sentence would have been more lenient.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Knowl View Report & Council cover up reinforces the need for Mandatory Reporting Law

Knowl View, Rochdale
I was speaking this morning on Radio Manchester about the recently revealed scandal into a report done by an inspector who went to the Knowl View children's home in 1991 and was told that boys were being used as prostitutes and were also being abused forcibly at the home.

Bearing in mind that there is not only a police investigation but also an independent enquiry being commissioned by the Council at the moment by Queens Counsel, this leaked information must be of some importance because otherwise it would simply have featured in the report when published.

As we at QualitySolicitors Abney Garsden act for a victim of the abuse, I do know that the abuse spans the 1960's, 70's, and 80s. The inspection in this case took place in 1991 - which was only a few years before the home closed in 1995. The question would be did any abuse take place after the report, and how long before the report, was the abuse happening with either the actual knowledge, or constructive knowledge of the home?

The points I made on the radio were:-
  1. I have been dealing with Children's Home abuse cases for 20 years and have never come across a report mentioning that abuse had actually taken place, then being covered up. Usually one only comes across evidence of a blind eye being turned to signs that children were not behaving normally or maybe a child who tried to disclose but did not quite manage to get everything out. 
  2. This shows that the abuse was taking place quite openly at the home rather than happening in secret as usually occurs. 
  3. This report will make the victims very angry that their complaints at the time were not responded to in the proper manner and that those in authority were engaged in a cover up. 
  4. On the one hand it will make them angry because it will bring it all to the surface again. On the other hand it will please them that albeit many years later they have some chance of getting some justice. 
  5. It reinforces the campaign for mandatory reporting, because if it had been possible to complain to an outside body rather than the report being internalised at Rochdale Council, there is a chance that something could have been done at the time, and the scandal uncovered. 
  6. There is no criminal offence of failing to report suspicions of abuse and there should be. Those who buried the report should be held accountable for orchestrating a cover up. 
  7. The police will only be able to prosecute the abusers if they are still alive rather than those who buried the complaints, who the victims often feel were more to blame.
For more detail on our mandatory reporting campaign see my separate blog on the subject here.