MP promises help for Rolf Harris victims

Paula Bennett
Paula Bennett
A Government Minister is promising any New Zealand women molested by disgraced entertainer Rolf Harris will have their claims fully investigated.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett told the Herald on Sunday last night those indecently assaulted by the 84-year-old would get help. She also urged any new victims to come forward.

Harris was yesterday jailed for five years and nine months for 12 sexual assaults on girls and young women. British Metropolitan Police confirmed they have numerous fresh allegations against Harris, including from Australian and New Zealand victims.

In the past 48 hours, more than a dozen women have told National MP Maggie Barry they too were indecently assaulted by the convicted paedophile, after she revealed he groped her before a radio interview. One victim told Barry she was turned away when she asked ACC for help six years ago.

An ACC spokesperson expressed concern at this yesterday and said the agency would never send someone away in an insensitive manner.

Bennett reassured any of Harris' victims they would be heard no matter how old the incident.

"It is important women feel supported to take action and I want them to feel safe in asking for help," said Bennett.

"I've been talking to Police Minister Anne Tolley and I'd encourage anyone who has been molested by Rolf Harris to make a criminal complaint."

Barry said going public about her encounter had prompted a deluge of new abuse allegations. At least one was planning to make a police complaint.

Barry said some of the women were told by agencies or trusted adults they were "fantasists".

"A lot said: 'We said Rolf Harris touched us inappropriately but we weren't believed at all.'

"Others told us, 'how can you say these things about lovely Rolf Harris?'

"One that sticks in my mind was a woman who spoke to ACC six years ago and was told there was nothing they could do to help."

ACC senior media advisor Glenn Donovan said that immediate counselling support was available for anyone who lodged a sensitive claim, and the corporation is willing to reconsider past decisions based on new information.

Barry said she had also been contacted by a victim of one of England's worst celebrity paedophiles, Jimmy Savile, whose offending sparked Operation Yewtree, which saw Harris arrested.

She urged women to come forward to politicians, Bennett or police if they had been subjected to indecencies at the hands of the "dirty bugger".

She said most women who had spoken of their abuse had lost trust in government agencies, including foster homes, ACC and the Child, Youth and Family Service.

She would personally advocate for the dozen or so women who came forward after she shared her experience. Metropolitan police spokesman Eddie Townsend said investigating officers are examining new allegations against Harris.

"With the amount we're dealing with it's going to take some time to decide whether fresh charges will be laid," he said.

- Lynley Bilby of the Herald on Sunday

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