Tonya Lee’s sexual abuse allegations against entertainer Rolf Harris, aired in a paid interview with A Current Affair, could prejudice a potential future trial says professor of media at Macquarie University, Catharine Lumby.

Any potential criminal trial involving Rolf Harris could be prejudiced by a Wollongong woman’s decision to go public in paid interviews about how she was allegedly sexually assaulted by the entertainer.Mother-of-three Tonya Lee has alleged that the assualt occurred in a London pub in 1986 when she was 14. It allegedly occurred when Ms Lee was one of 12 members of a youth theatre group from Carlton, in Sydney’s south, on a six-week tour of Britain.In paid interviews with Woman’s Day and Channel Nine’s A Current Affair, brokered by celebrity agent Max Markson, Ms Lee said the troupe were in a pub when Harris allegedly sexually assaulted her.

Screen grab of Tonya Lee interview with A Current Affair. Tonya Lee on A Current Affair. Photo: Channel Nine

Ms Lee alleges Harris inappropriately touched her while they sat with the group at a table and again outside the pub’s bathroom.Ms Lee, 42, is the second person to go public with allegations about Harris, 83, after claims by another woman, Lauren Martell, that she witnessed an alleged incident in the early 1990s. Ms Martell, who was interviewed by Scotland Yard detectives at her home north of Sydney this month, was not paid for her media interviews.Mr Markson said that Ms Lee gave her interview after she had gone to police.

"Harris has strongly denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged with any crime". “Harris has strongly denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged with any crime”. Photo: Supplied

Harris has strongly denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged with any crime. Former NSW director of public prosecutions Nicholas Cowdery, QC, said the publication of the allegations had the potential to prejudice a hearing if the investigation ever reached that stage and that any trial may have to be adjourned for up to 12 months.‘‘I think if this woman has already given her story to authorities as a witness, then it’s even more morally indefensible,’’ he said.Ms Lee’s ‘‘reliability as a witness’’ may also be called into question for selling her story to a media outlet, he said. ‘‘The inference arises that the person may be telling a story or sticking to a story motivated by the reward that he or she has received or might receive at some future time.’’

Womans Day tear out of Rolf Harris abuse story. “Problematic”: The magazine story. Photo: Womans Day

Mr Markson said Ms Lee was within her rights to sell her story to Australian media, saying any trial would occur in Britain.She told the magazine she was going public in the hope other alleged victims might come forward.Hetty Johnston, founder of child protection group Bravehearts, praised Ms Lee, saying alleged victims find courage in others who speak out about abuse.‘‘The fact that it is a paid interview sullies it a bit but I do not believe that money would have been her motivating factor,’’ she said.Mr Markson said selling an exclusive was preferable to his client facing an all-in press conference.Mr Markson would not disclose how much Ms Lee, a bank manager, was paid for her story, or if she sought permission from investigators to do so.Catharine Lumby, a professor of media at Macquarie University, said: ‘‘It can be very problematic when there are ongoing investigations in giving an interview to media organisations whether there are payments or not.’’