Veteran entertainer Rolf Harris has been found guilty of 12 counts of indecently assaulting four girls in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.
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 — which will take place on Friday.
Harris, who was granted bail, faced photographers and reporters as he left Southwark Crown Court yesterday 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 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. The entertainer was not prosecuted over those incidents but the evidence was introduced by the prosecution as an added illustration of his behaviour.
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.”
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. “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.”
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 and songwriter 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 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.