I represented Rolf Harris' victims, and have been disgusted by his lack of remorse

Contrition should be relevant before releasing sex offenders from jail early – yet Harris could still only serve half his sentence, and be out within two years

Click to follow
The Independent Online

When Rolf Harris wrote his letter and song denouncing his victims – describing them as money-grabbing "wenches" who want to make him "dance" – he did more than simply reveal his arrogance and callous contempt for his accusers.

The disgraced entertainer has exposed a criminal justice system which has relegated to an irrelevance the need for an offender guilty of some of the most serious crimes to show remorse.

In June 2014, Harris was jailed for five years and nine months for 12 indecent assaults on four girls – one as young as eight. But beyond that headline jail term, many members of the public will probably not be aware, Harris will automatically be entitled to release after serving just half that term – no matter how little contrition and remorse he shows.

And he writes with all the hubris of a man who feels secure in the knowledge he will free by the end of May 2017, a detail the Ministry of Justice reportedly confirmed to the media this week.

Some may have hoped his conviction and time in prison – no matter how brief – would have marked the beginning of his reform and rehabilitation. However, if his rants from his cell in HMP Stafford are anything to go by, his incarceration appears to have fuelled his perverse sense of indignation and confirmed that he still resolutely refuses to show any remorse for his wicked crimes.

Few can be in any doubt about the lasting harm his crimes have had on those he abused, and they are incensed by his rantings. He is either unable or unwilling to comprehend the magnitude of damage that he has caused through his sexual violation of the young.

In fact, in his correspondence Harris resorts to victim blaming, a tactic used all too frequently by offenders and their apologists. His victims showed incredible courage to come forward and face down a powerful celebrity in court. They did not “climb up out of the woodwork babe, from forty years ago” in an attempt at “making loads of dough”, as Harris says in his vile scribblings. Anyone who holds that view, or tries to downplay his crimes as normal behaviour of a man from another era, plays into his hands.

It's not just our system that needs to change, and take his lack of remorse into account, but anyone who victim blames in our society. All of those who comment that victims should not make a fuss after all these years, those who tweet that his victims are "in it for fame" or money, those that criticise women for putting themselves in danger by wearing the wrong sort of clothes or looking a certain way, add to offenders’ twisted sense that they are the real victims.

Anyone who blames the victims for what they have gone through, and are still going through, just helps Harris who will do everything in his power to distract from the horrible reality of his crimes. When society doesn’t stand up this, it allows men like Harris to get away without feeling remorse, utterly unchanged by his time behind bars.

No doubt he will walk free with the same sense of superiority and total disdain for his victims which was a trait of his offending, and which led to him escaping justice for so long. Meanwhile, his victims will spend the rest of their lives dealing with the harm and torment his crimes have caused, he will be free to begin rebuilding his life within a couple of years.

Those he abused, and we as society, have every right to wonder what kind of justice that is.

Liz Dux is a specialist abuse lawyer at Slater and Gordon. She represents all the women who gave evidence at Rolf Harris' trial.