Rolf Harris jailed for five years and nine months

  • Published
Media caption,

Mr Justice Sweeney said Harris had taken advantage of the trust placed in him because of his celebrity status

Disgraced entertainer Rolf Harris has been jailed for nearly six years for 12 indecent assaults against four girls - including one aged just seven or eight.

Mr Justice Sweeney said Harris, 84, had taken advantage of his celebrity status and had shown "no remorse".

The sentence of five years and nine months has already been referred to the Attorney General's Office under the "unduly lenient sentence scheme".

One victim said the abuse had taken away her "childhood innocence".

Harris, who was found guilty of offences that took place between 1968 and 1986, was told by the judge he had "no-one to blame but himself".

He displayed no emotion and stared straight ahead as he was jailed.

Image source, Julia Quenzler
Image caption,
The BBC's David Sillito said Harris was "staring ahead" during the court hearing
Image source, AP
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Press photographers tried to get pictures as a van thought to be carrying Harris left the court
Image source, AFP
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Harris's daughter Bindi, centre, was in court as her father was sentenced

Before Harris was sentenced, prosecutors said he would not stand trial over allegations he had downloaded sexual images of children.

They had claimed Harris had indecent images of children, as part of a larger collection of adult pornography, but decided it was not in the public interest to prosecute him.

'Psychological harm'

During sentencing, the judge said Harris "clearly got a thrill" from committing some of the assaults on his four victims while "others were present or nearby".

He said Harris touched the youngest victim intimately when she approached him for an autograph in Portsmouth, while another was "groped" at an event in Cambridge.

As well as the girl who was aged seven or eight, Harris's victims were two young teenagers and a childhood friend of his daughter Bindi. He abused his daughter's friend between the ages of 13 and 19.

The judge said Harris "fancied" this victim and assaulted her in her home and his, breaching the "trust that her parents had placed in you".

He said the assaults resulted in the teenager suffering panic attacks, anxiety and led to her becoming an alcoholic, saying she had "suffered severe psychological harm".

Speaking after sentencing, she said the jail term was "immaterial" but the verdict was "what I wanted, what I went to court for".

She added: "I do hope that women will come forward now, celebrity or not."

Image source, Met Police

The sentences broken down are:

  • Count 1: Assaulting an autograph-hunter, who was aged seven or eight, in the late 1960s - Nine months
  • Count 2: Assaulting a teenage waitress in the 1970s - Six months
  • Count 3: Assaulting a childhood friend of Harris's daughter between the ages of 13 and 19 - 15 months
  • Count 4: Same victim as count 3 - 15 months
  • Count 5: Same victim as count 3 - 15 months
  • Count 6: Same victim as count 3 - 12 months
  • Count 7: Same victim as count 3 - 15 months
  • Count 8: Same victim as count 3 - 12 months
  • Count 9: Same victim as count 3 - 12 months
  • Count 10: Assaulting Australian woman Tonya Lee, who was 15, in 1986 - Nine months
  • Count 11: Same victim as count 10 - Nine months
  • Count 12: Same victim as count 10 - 12 months

Some of the sentences will be served at the same time, making a total of five years and nine months.

Harris is likely to serve half of the sentence in prison and was told he would not have to pay compensation to his victims. However, the judge said he could have to pay the costs of the prosecution.

A spokeswoman for the Attorney General's Office did not say who had referred the sentence as being "unduly lenient" but said it "only takes one person to trigger the process".

The sentence must be considered within 28 days for possible referral to the Court of Appeal, the spokeswoman added.

Harris was prosecuted based on the law at the time of his offences, when the maximum sentence for indecent assault was two years in prison, or five years for victims under 13.

Two of his victims were in court for the sentencing, which saw members of the press and public fill the public gallery and watch from an overspill court via a video feed.

Harris's daughter Bindi was with him in court but his wife Alwen, who has been consistently present throughout the trial, did not attend.

Image source, Getty Images

In court

Jane Peel, BBC News correspondent

The queue outside court two began to form at 07:45 BST - more than two hours before the hearing was due to begin.

Rolf Harris had started his final journey to Southwark in a boat from his house on the Thames, in Bray, Berkshire, but he arrived as usual in a car.

His daughter Bindi was with him but there was no sign of his frail wife, Alwen.

Perhaps in contrast to his mood, he wore a jazzy, multi-coloured tie and a light grey suit.

He had brought with him a similarly bright suitcase with a stripy design. Harris knew he would be going to prison. The only question was for how long.

He had been allowed to stay seated, but was told to stand as Mr Justice Sweeney announced that he would be jailed for five years and nine months.

There was no visible reaction from him or his relatives who were in court as he was led to the cells by two dock security officers.

Peter Watt, of the NSPCC, said: "It sends a message that no-one is untouchable and justice can come at any time."

Alan Collins, of law firm Slater and Gordon, told the BBC his firm had been contacted in "recent days" by people making new allegations against Harris.

He said the calls had come from both the UK and overseas, and lawyers would meet the complainants in the coming days.

Earlier, the court heard impact statements from the four victims, including from the childhood friend of Harris's daughter.

Reading out the statement, prosecutor Esther Schutzer-Weissman said the abuse had "haunted" the victim and left her feeling "dirty, grubby and disgusting".

The statement from the victim who had been seven or eight said the abuse had taken away her "childhood innocence".

Harris indecently assaulted a waitress at a charity event in Cambridge when she was aged 13 or 14, who said the star had "treated me like a toy".

'He said sorry'

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Woman who gave evidence against Rolf Harris: "At the time, I felt I would be raped"

One woman told the BBC she met Harris when she was 18 and he was "very kind, very nice" - but then "sexually abused" her.

The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, gave evidence in the trial but the attack in Malta was not the subject of a prosecution because at the time of the incident the offence was outside the jurisdiction of a UK court.

She said Harris led her into a room to show her his artworks.

"He closed the door and then he pushed me up against the wall," she said.

"It was quite intimate, it was forceful and it was scary... I don't know how long it took to be quite honest but I couldn't get away.

"And then he suddenly just stopped, he hugged me and said he was sorry."

She said she had thought she was going to be raped, but she did not report it because she did not think anyone would take her seriously.