Sunday, April 21, 2013

Regarding Rolf Harris

When it was announced some weeks ago that an 83 year old Australian performer had been arrested in Britain in relation to sexual offences (although no specific charges had been laid), it did not take a genius to work out that this was Rolf Harris. The official media did not name him, although his name resonated throughout the social media. When I heard it on the news, I did not need the social media to identify him for me. The “non-identification” was a complete farce. Many people in Britain and Australia were deeply shocked by the news. There was, from some at least, a sense of “Oh no, surely not!”

At this stage we know nothing about the allegations that have been brought against him, other than that they are “historical”, whatever exactly that means. I take it to mean that the events referred to, if they occurred, took place a long time ago.

Of course, I have no way of knowing whether Rolf Harris is guilty of any offence. What I do know is that the accusation, true or not, will probably destroy him. If he is guilty, many may say, “Good riddance. He gets what he deserves.” Why should he be rewarded with such a successful career and contented life (apparently) if he is guilty of destroying someone else’s life? If he is not guilty, of course, it is a very sad way for a man to spend the final years of his life: facing such accusations and charges. Of course, in all likelihood, given that these allegations are “historical”, there will be very little evidence to decide the case one way or another. We will be left with Rolf’s word against the alleged victim’s word. People will choose for themselves who to believe. Guilty or not, many will believe him to be. Guilty or not, many will believe him not to be.

What should be done in a situation like this? How does one establish the facts after such a lengthy passage of time? And what happens if the truth cannot be determined? I am at a loss to know. If there were some events early in Rolf’s life, should he be punished for them so many, many years later? I don’t know. Is it possible that a person can make up for the harmful deeds they may have done at some time in their life, by all the good they do later? I really, really don’t know. Some will jump in with quick, easy, neat, black and white answers to these questions. To me it all just seems so much more complicated than that. 

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