Publication of the name of Australian-born, British resident entertainer Rolf Harris as someone involved in the investigation of sex abuse perpetrators by British police has followed what the newspaper Mail on Sunday claims were “intimidating and threatening” emails from lawyers representing the entertainer.
Rolf Harris is a much-loved entertainer in Britain and elsewhere who has a high profile on various fronts, including painting a picture of The Queen. His unique style and childrens’ and adult television shows spawned decades of high profile work for the entertainer.
However the latest revelations after much speculation has opened up a legal and a media frenzy of interest, as the Daily Mail reports.
Lawyers for Rolf Harris have used intimidating and potentially misleading tactics to stop The Mail on Sunday from naming the Australian entertainer in the investigation in the wake of the Jimmy Savile abuse claims.
In a series of threatening emails sent to this paper, London law firm Harbottle & Lewis warned of the ‘highly damaging personal consequences’ in identifying their client.
They also brandished Lord Justice Leveson’s name to declare there was no public interest in reporting the arrest. It meant that for more than four months The Mail on Sunday decided not to publish Mr Harris’s name in connection with the Savile investigation.
As recently as March 30, Har¬bottle’s senior media lawyer,
Gerrard Tyrrell, who has acted for Prince William, Prince Harry and the Middletons, warned: ‘If you proceed then both you and the Editor of your newspaper are on notice of the consequences.’
In January, Harbottle’s was asked to confirm if Mr Harris had been interviewed by police. The firm responded by citing cases of Tory peer Lord McAlpine and X Factor judge Louis Walsh, who had been falsely linked to sex offences.
In fact, these cases were crucially different from Mr Harris’s because it was true that Mr Harris had been interviewed by the police. And unlike Mr Harris, neither man had been interviewed or arrested.
Last night Mr Walsh’s lawyer Paul Tweed said it was wrong to compare his client’s case to that of Mr Harris. He said: ‘The Louis Walsh case I would distinguish because by the time the Sun published the story my client had not been contacted by the police . . . But in Rolf Harris’s case, as I understand it, he has been interviewed by the police. In my view there is a very important distinction there. Once you reach the point of interview and arrest there has to be a strong public interest argument in publication. The fact that The Mail on Sunday held back for four months is a credit to you.’