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HindustanTimes Tue,23 Sep 2014

Rolf Harris jailed for five years for sex assaults

PTI  London, July 04, 2014
First Published: 19:08 IST(4/7/2014) | Last Updated: 19:36 IST(4/7/2014)

Veteran entertainer Rolf Harris, a household name in Britain and Australia for decades, was on Friday jailed for five years and nine months by a judge in London for a string of sexual assaults against girls and young women. The Australian-born television star, artist and songwriter, 84, was found guilty earlier this week of indecent assault against four victims between 1968 and 1986, including the best friend of his daughter Bindi.

"You have shown no remorse for your crimes at all," judge Nigel Sweeney told Harris as he handed down his sentence at London's Southwark Crown Court.

"Your reputation lies in ruins, you have been stripped of your honours, but you have no one to blame but yourself."

Read: Entertainer Rolf Harris appears in court on child sex charges

Harris was the second person to be convicted under a wide-ranging police investigation set up after allegations that a fellow BBC television star, Jimmy Savile, was a prolific abuser.

Harris, wearing a multicoloured tie, grey suit and white shirt, showed no emotion as he heard the sentence that could see him die in prison, even if he is only likely to serve half of his sentence.

The court had earlier heard statements from the victims in which one, Harris' daughter's childhood friend, said she had been traumatised by his abuse and made to feel "dirty, grubby and disgusting".

Another victim who was abused when she was only eight as she went to get Harris' autograph, said that in those few moments her "childhood innocence was gone".

Harris' conviction on Monday caused widespread shock and soul-searching in Britain, where his television programmes were watched by millions of children.

His stature was once so great that he was made a CBE (Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) in 2006 -- one of the highest honours Queen Elizabeth II can bestow -- and even painted the monarch's portrait on her 80th birthday.

There was also revulsion at his spectacular fall from grace in Australia, the home country that he left at the age of 22 but which treated him as a national hero.

The judge described in graphic detail the 12 counts against Harris, who he said had taken advantage of the trust placed in him as a celebrity and as a father to abuse vulnerable girls.

Seven of the counts relate to Bindi's friend, who said she was first abused when she was away on holiday with them in 1978, when Harris was 48 and she was just 13.

He once assaulted her while his daughter was sleeping in the adjacent bed.

In her statement to the court, the unnamed woman said she blames Harris for her alcoholism over many years and said the abuse left her a "quivering wreck".

Harris admitted having a sexual relationship with the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, but said it only began when she was an adult.

Defence lawyer Sonia Woodley had urged the judge to consider in mitigation that the entertainer was not in the best of health.

Woodley also argued that, with the exception of his daughter's friend, all the assaults involved brief encounters and were "opportunistic rather than predatory".

"There are two sides to him and it's a fact that he has a good side to him," she said.

Prosecutors said on Friday they would not pursue allegations that Harris downloaded sexual images of children, saying it was "no longer in the public interest".

During court arguments that can only now be reported, his lawyers had contested the age of models found in pornographic images found on his computer.

However reports suggest the entertainer, known for hit songs such as "Two Little Boys" and "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport", could now be stripped of his CBE, while there is also the prospect of further charges.

A dozen more women from Britain, Australia and New Zealand have made fresh allegations against him, including a New Zealand MP, who said he groped her when she tried to interview him as a reporter in the 1980s.

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