Sex abuse scandal: Rolf Harris revealed as 'entertainer' arrested by police investigating abuse allegations in November - so why has his name only come out now?

Entertainer’s prolonged anonymity raises questions about practice of naming those arrested

After five months as an open secret, Rolf Harris – the artist formerly known as “Yewtree 5” – was named as a sex crime suspect after it emerged that his lawyers cited the Leveson report to try to stop the media from identifying him.

His name had been widely aired online, but Mr Harris was identified by the press for the first time as the man in his 80s who was questioned last year, on the day that Lord Justice Leveson's report was published.

The saga has raised questions about the practice of naming people who have been arrested but not charged.

In letters to some publications – but not to The Independent – the law firm Harbottle & Lewis said "there is no public interest in publishing such content as is entirely self-evident following the publication of the Leveson report". The firm did not respond to requests for comment.

Mr Harris, 83, had not been named following his questioning in November or his arrest this year, unlike other high-profile celebrities held during Scotland Yard's sprawling investigation sparked by the outing of Jimmy Savile as a prolific sex offender.

No police force in Britain names the people it arrests, usually referring to suspects only by their general location and age. Named suspects have been identified through lawyers, agents or neighbours, or after prominent police activity at their homes.

The apparent reluctance across the media to name Mr Harris appears to have a number of reasons: the unwillingness of his own representatives to confirm the arrest, the lack of sightings, and the timing of the Leveson report.

One newspaper story that claimed he had been treated at the Priory clinic also raised questions over his welfare in the event of publication. However, the decision by The Sun to lead the way followed a high-profile public performance by Mr Harris at the Royal Festival Hall in London in February.

In his report, Lord Justice Leveson wrote: "I think that it should be made clear that save in exceptional and clearly identified circumstances (for example, where there may be an immediate risk to the public), the names or identifying details of those who are arrested or suspected of a crime should not be released to the press or the public."

However, Chief Constable Andrew Trotter, who is drawing up guidelines for the Association of Chief Police Officers, drew a distinction between suspects being named by police and being revealed through research. "The police will only give out very limited information and will not confirm any names except in circumstances to prevent or detect crime, or some other reason in the interests of justice," he said.

The Australian-born entertainer is one of 12 people arrested under Operation Yewtree including the former pop star Gary Glitter, DJ Dave Lee Travis, comedians Freddie Starr and Jim Davidson, and PR guru Max Clifford. All deny any wrongdoing.

Mr Harris was held on suspicion of sexual offences and has been bailed until next month. Reporters who rang the buzzer at Harris's home in Bray, Berkshire, this morning were told "no comment" by a man who answered. His agent did not return calls.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence