A TRADER at Edinburgh’s Christmas market has been forced to apologise after selling masks of convicted sex offender Rolf Harris.
Cut-outs bearing the face of the former children’s television presenter had been sold at a festive stall near Princes Street Gardens but were destroyed almost immediately after the blunder came to light.
They were put on sale close to a children’s carousel in the European section of the market alongside masks of cartoon characters, celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay and Hollywood A-lister Johnny Depp.
In July, Rolf Harris was found guilty of 12 counts of indecent assault and jailed for almost six years.
Today, organisers of Edinburgh’s Christmas said the product had not been “authorised for sale” and was removed with “immediate effect”.
It is understood traders are required to submit an inventory of all products being sold and the Rolf Harris masks had not appeared on list provided by the trader.
Only one of the Rolf Harris masks is thought to have been purchased before they were destroyed.
Today, shoppers said they were shocked the “controversial” masks were being sold at a family-friendly market.
Newlyweds Bryan and Claire Laing of Fife, who were visiting Edinburgh’s Christmas with one-year-old daughter Merryn, branded the saga “tasteless”.
“I didn’t think anybody could be so stupid,” said Mr Laing.
Another shopper, Tracey Malcolm, 24, from East Lothian said: “They shouldn’t be selling them as far as I’m concerned.
“People could be walking about who have been the victims of abuse. They wouldn’t find this funny.”
Harris was found guilty of assaulting four victims, and passing sentence, Judge Mr Justice Sweeney told Harris: “Your reputation now lies in ruins.”
Councillor Norman Work was the first to alert market bosses to the Rolf Harris masks when he reported their sale to the council.
He tweeted: “Can’t believe you can buy a ‘celebrity’ mask of disgraced Rolf Harris at Edinburgh’s Christmas market.”
Later he said he had been “shocked” by their presence at a Christmas market and said neither the council nor organisers Underbelly had been aware of the products.
When approached by the News, the trader manning the stall declined to comment.
A spokesman for Underbelly stressed that the product was “not authorised for sale”.
“We have also checked all of the other stalls, to ensure stock being sold is appropriate,” he said. “We apologise for any offence that may have been caused by the entirely inappropriate sale of the masks by the trader.”
The city’s Christmas Market was targeted by Trading Standards officers in 2003 after concerns stalls were selling goods which could be a “potential fire hazard”, in particular wooden candle holders which had been shown to be dangerous.
Last year however the market came under fire for its prices, with families hitting out at the cost of food, drink and rides such as the much-hyped Starflyer.
Organisers are this year offering local residents a discount to encourage more to take part in the Capital’s Christmas events.