Rolf Harris, the former Australian entertainment icon, has been found guilty on twelve charges of indecent assault, from 1968 to 1986, against four underage women.
Justice Nigel Sweeney confirmed that a jail term was the most likely outcome of the hearing, saying that the notion was “uppermost in the court’s mind,” but granted Harris an opportunity to have this overturned depending on his state of health before his sentencing on Friday.
Prosecutor Sasha Wass, QC, told the jury during May’s early stages of the trial, that Harris was a “Jekyll and Hyde” character, using his popularity and talent to hide a very dark secret: an intense sexual attraction to underage women.
The defence, and Harris himself however, denied all charges, claiming that those who accused him were lying, with their stories being unbelievable in inconsistent. His wife and daughter, Alwen and Bindi Harris, were present in court to hear the verdicts – holding hands and occasionally gasping as they were announced.
Harris’ wife was comforted by family members in a small side room after the hearing, with Bindi, his daughter, supportively embraced by Harris’ long-standing publicist, Jan Kennedy.
Harris sat through the hearing without showing any obvious signs of emotion, before giving his family a brief wave as he was led out of the courtroom with his lawyers.
From a trusted source close to the Harris family, Fairfax Media has come to understand that the Australian entertainer was “in shock” after the verdicts came to light.
Harris may also face charges in his homeland, Australia, if the police decide to further investigate allegations made by Australian witnesses during his trial, and others who came forward after the hearing, with information about potential further contraventions.
England’s Scotland Yard confirmed that it was considering a number of new allegations that it received both before and during the hearing period, with Detective Chief Inspector, Michael Orchard saying that Rolf has continually denied any wrongdoing, in so doing forcing his victims to recount their traumas in public.
Mr. Orchard continued on to say that Harris had committed a multitude of offences in plain sight, thinking that “his celebrity status placed him above the law.”
“I want to thank the women who came forward for their bravery, I hope today’s guilty verdict will give them closure and help them to begin to move on with their lives,” Mr. Orchard said.
Peter Watt, director of national services as the England-based National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), came forward to say that the charity was pleased to have been of assistance in bringing Harris to justice, uncovering his dark side as a happy-go-lucky children’s entertainer, whilst, in fact, he used his charming persona to get closer to children and ultimately commit a series of serious sexual offences.
Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), Jenny Hopkins confirmed that “Harris had used his status and position as a world famous [children’s] entertainer to sexually assault young girls over a period spanning eighteen years.”
Jenny Hopkins, Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in London, said: “Rolf Harris used his status and position as a world famous children’s entertainer to sexually assault young girls over a period spanning 18 years.”
“The prosecution of sexual offences is often difficult and complex, perhaps even more so when the allegations are from some years ago. We will continue to consider cases and wherever there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest, we will work with police and victims to build strong cases which can be put before a court […] I hope today’s verdict provides other victims with the courage and confidence to come forward no matter who is alleged to have carried out the abuse and when.”
An emotional Vince Hill, a friend of Harris, told the BBC he felt “defeated” by the verdict. He had been planning a surprise party on the assumption Harris would be acquitted.
And choreographer Dougie Squires, who gave evidence of Harris’ good character during the trial, said he was shocked by the verdict.
Vince Hill, a close friend of Harris, admitted that he felt “defeated” by the verdict, with Dougie Squires, Harris’ former choreographer, saying that he felt the man he knew couldn’t be a paedophile.
The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children stated that the charity had received twenty-eight calls regarding Harris, through their helpline, including thirteen people who claimed that they too had been abused by him.
As is usual protocol for Buckingham Palace, Rolf Harris will most likely lose his CBE as recipients who are considered to have brought the system to disrepute are asked to forfeit their awards. So too are the directors at BAFTA questioning whether to reclaim Harris’ honorary fellowship from the British Film Industry, a spokesperson said.
The Australian entertainer’s website, rolfharris.com, was taken offline after the verdict, reportedly due to an influx of abusive comments and feedback regarding Harris and the case.
As per British law, Harris can be charged a maximum of two years’ jail time for each guilty verdict, with two of the twelve charges that don’t involve touching the victims’ genital areas being punishable by a maximum of eighteen months in jail.
Harris’ PR agent published a brief message, stating that neither Harris’ family nor legal team would comment on the court’s verdict.
The now 84-year-old entertainer will remain on bail pending the outcomes of his medical reports before sentencing on Friday.
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