Rolf Harris guilty of indecent assaults

The BBC's David Sillito takes a look back at Rolf Harris's case

Veteran entertainer Rolf Harris has been found guilty of 12 counts of indecently assaulting four girls in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.

One of the victims was a childhood friend of his daughter, another was an autograph hunter aged seven or eight.

Prosecutors said Harris was a "Jekyll and Hyde" character who took advantage of his fame. Sentencing is on Friday.

Police said they were considering fresh allegations against Harris, 84, which did not form part of his trial.

Scotland Yard said if the claims meet the force's threshold for investigation they will be looked into further.

The judge, Mr Justice Sweeney, said a custodial term was "uppermost in the court's mind", but he wanted to see a medical report before passing sentence.

Rolf Harris police mugshot The Metropolitan Police have issued a photograph of Harris taken after his arrest

Harris, who was granted bail, faced a mass of photographers and reporters as he left Southwark Crown Court in the company of his wife Alwen and daughter Bindi, who had both attended most of the trial.

Prosecutors said Harris used his "status and position" to abuse his victims, and he had a dark side to his personality.

The central allegation concerned a friend of Harris's daughter, whom the court heard he groomed and molested from the age of 13 until she was 19.

The other victims told the court they were touched or groped by Harris, sometimes at his public appearances.

The jury deliberated for 37 hours and 45 minutes before reaching their unanimous verdicts.

Harris was found guilty of all 12 charges he was prosecuted on. They were:

  • Count one: A woman said Harris touched her inappropriately when she was just seven or eight while he was signing autographs in Hampshire in the late 1960s
  • Count two: Harris was accused of groping a teenage waitress's bottom at a charity event in Cambridge in the 1970s
  • Counts three to nine: A childhood friend of Mr Harris' daughter said he repeatedly indecently assaulted her between the ages of 13 and 19, including once when his daughter was asleep in the same room. He admitted a relationship with the woman, but said it began after she turned 18
  • Counts 10 to 12: Australian woman Tonya Lee, who has waived her right to anonymity, said he abused her three times on one day while she was on a theatre group trip to the UK at the age of 15.

Six other women also told the court about indecent assaults Harris had carried out against them in Australia, New Zealand and Malta. The entertainer could not be prosecuted over those incidents in a British court but the evidence was introduced by the prosecution as an added illustration of his behaviour.

Letitia Fitzpatrick, who gave a character reference for the prosecution about an alleged assault on her, told the BBC: "It was such an unpleasant experience that I just wanted to forget about it and move on and not really think about it again."

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A court sketch of the Rolf Harris jury delivering its verdicts
In court Jane Peel, BBC News Correspondent

The verdicts came just before 3pm, almost 38 hours into the jury's deliberations.

Before they were delivered the judge, Mr Justice Sweeney, made it clear to all those inside court two - the journalists, the public, and the relatives of Rolf Harris - that he expected silence throughout the process.

Everyone took him at his word. There was barely a sound as the forewoman stood.

Rolf Harris was allowed to remain seated in the glass-fronted dock, listening as he had throughout his trial, on a headset.

A short distance away his wife, Alwen Hughes, his daughter Bindi, his niece Jenny and other relatives and supporters looked on.

Twelve times the forewoman of the jury said the word "guilty". Harris remained completely impassive. Bindi widened her eyes, looking stunned. Jenny turned to Harris's wife and gently shook her head.

They had been convinced of his innocence. But the jury was sure of his guilt.

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Harris, from Bray, Berkshire, was first questioned in November 2012 in Scotland Yard's Operation Yewtree investigation set up in the wake of sexual abuse allegations against the late BBC Radio 1 DJ Jimmy Savile.

Although his arrest was unconnected to Savile's offending, the publicity surrounding that case had prompted the friend of Harris's daughter to come forward.

But Harris was not initially named by the police or identified in the mainstream media until a few weeks after his arrest in March 2013.

The other women who gave evidence in court contacted police after Harris's arrest was made public and he was charged in August of that year.

Speaking outside court after the seven-week trial, Jenny Hopkins, deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor for London, said: "The victims in this case have suffered in silence for many years and have only recently found the courage to come forward.

"Each victim, unknown to the others, described a similar pattern of behaviour; that of a man acting without fear of the consequences.

"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."

Tonya Lee said she had been abused by Harris while on a visit to the UK when she was 15

Peter Watt, director of national services at the NSPCC, said the children's charity had had 28 calls about Harris through its helpline, including 13 people who said they had been abused by him.

He added: "All of this was passed to the police, helping them to build their case against Harris, whose actions over the years have seriously damaged the lives of his victims.

"His reckless and brazen sexual offending, sometimes in public places, bizarrely within sight of people he knew, speaks volumes about just how untouchable he thought he was."

Ms Lee, 43, said the abuse had led her to contemplate taking her own life.

The mother-of-three said: "This has impacted me in ways you can't imagine and in ways that can't be taken back...

"To this day I can't go to sleep without lying in a lounge and having the TV on. I cannot lie in a room and try and sit with my thoughts and go to sleep."

The childhood friend of Harris's daughter, who has not been named, said: "I am very relieved, that's all I am prepared to say".

Rolf Harris leaving Southwark Crown Court after the verdicts on 30 June 2014 Harris made no comment when he left court after the verdicts
Rolf Harris arrives at court on 30 June 2014 with daughter Bindi (l), wife Alwen (r) and niece Jenny (second r) He was accompanied on most days of the trial by his daughter Bindi, wife Alwen, and other relatives
Rolf Harris with the Queen and Kylie Minogue at the Diamond Jubilee concert in June 2012 Harris painted a portrait of the Queen in 2005 and took part in her Diamond Jubilee concert seven years later

A make-up artist who told the trial that she was was repeatedly groped by Harris in Australia told the BBC "justice has finally been done".

Harris was a mainstay of family entertainment in Britain and his native Australia for more than 50 years. He arrived in London in 1952, becoming a fixture on TV screens as a children's entertainer, songwriter, and entertainer, on the BBC and other networks.

Harris was also an artist and painted a portrait of the Queen to mark her 80th Birthday in 2006.

During his career he was made an OBE, MBE and CBE. He was also awarded a Bafta fellowship two years ago but the academy has announced it will strip him of the honour ago in light of the conviction.

In his evidence, Harris reminded the jury of his career, how he had invented the wobble board instrument by accident and popularised the didgeridoo, and talked about his hit records, briefly singing a line from one of them, Jake the Peg.

He denied having sexual contact with his daughter's friend while she was under 16, but said they had consensual sexual contact later. He described himself as a "touchy feely sort of person" and rejected the other women's claims of sexual assault.

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