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TST Statement on Rolf Harris – “Sentence Too Lenient”

4 July 2014: 

The Survivors Trust welcomes the conviction and sentencing of Rolf Harris for 12 indecent assaults against four girls.  However, the sentence given of just 5 years and 9 months of which he will only serve half to be released on license for the remainder of his sentence, in no way reflects the ongoing nature of the suffering that his victims have experienced.

Without concurrent sentences, Harris would be facing 11 years and 9 months – a sentence that we feel better reflects the lifelong suffering his victims have felt and are still battling.  We note that sentencing has been made in accordance to laws in existence at the time the assaults took place; since then understanding of the nature of sexual offending and the impact of trauma on vulnerable young victims has resulted in sentencing guidelines that are more reflective of the trauma suffered.  Had the offences taken place today a minimum sentence of 8 years would be implemented and the maximum would be life imprisonment.

Fay Maxted, Chief Executive Officer of The Survivors Trust, says:

“The sentence Harris has been given reflects how little society understood of the impact of the sexual abuse of children and the long term effects on adults at the time these offences were committed.  Even using present day law and guidelines, sentencing often fails to reflect the seriousness of the impact of sexual abuse on victims.”

Fay Maxted added:

“In delivering the sentence, Mr Justice Sweeney made the extraordinary comment that Harris had ‘led an upright life since 1994’, despite the fact that as late as 2012 Harris was downloading indecent images of children, including 33 images of boys and girls on his computer from a range of websites, looking at the images ‘over and over again’.  The decision was taken not to proceed with these offences.

“For a man who abused his position of trust, used his celebrity status as a shield and who has shown no remorse for his actions, the sentence is not enough and I welcome the referral to the Attorney General under the Unduly Lenient Sentence scheme.”


About The Survivors Trust

The Survivors Trust (TST) is a national umbrella agency with over 140 specialist organisations for supporting those who have experienced rape, sexual violence and childhood sexual abuse support organisations throughout the UK and Ireland.

One Response to “TST Statement on Rolf Harris – “Sentence Too Lenient””

  1. Stephen Thorpe July 5, 2014 12:45 am #

    The sentence handed down is not too lenient IMHO. I do not agree with the notion of “retributive justice”. Justice should be rehabilitative and/or preventative. Under the latter category is included deterrence of others, but this makes the BIG assumption that offenders make a RATIONAL decision to offend, factoring in the severity of punishment. I’m not sure that this is the reality. Besides, it could backfire. If the penalty is going to be too severe, then why not go the “whole hog” and be a Fred West, or whoever, rather than stop at a Rolf Harris? It is probably a bit too late for “rehab” in Rolf’s case, and he is, at his age, very unlikely to reoffend at the specific offences he has been charged with to date. So, what is the point in a custodial sentence, in this case? I suggest that it would have been better if Harris had instead been ordered to give away half his fortune to charity or medical research (but absolutely NOT to his alleged victims! It worries me in any case of rich people that their alleged victims have a financial motive to exaggerate the alleged harm done to them, and even if it is true, getting money isn’t really going to help them). And, yes, it has to be said that Harris is to some extent a victim himself – a victim of his own artistic genius. Such talent always comes with “baggage” – the classic “tortured artist”, and the fine line between genius and madness. Let’s not crucify the man! The sentence handed down to him is not, I suggest, “too lenient” …

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