Harris jailed for sex assaults

Andover Advertiser: Rolf Harris outside Southwark Crown Court during his trial Rolf Harris outside Southwark Crown Court during his trial

The pain of the women who fell prey to convicted paedophile Rolf Harris was laid bare today, as he was told he will serve just under three years in prison for a string of sex crimes.

As the shamed entertainer, finally unmasked as a predator who was fixated with underage girls, was sentenced at London's Southwark Crown Court, statements from the four girls he targeted over decades detailed their ordeals.

The court heard how Harris's sordid 16-year campaign of sex abuse against his daughter's friend "haunted" her and made her abandon her dreams as he continued to be adored by millions of fans worldwide.

Jailing Harris for five years and nine months, of which he will serve half, Mr Justice Sweeney said: "You have shown no remorse for your crimes at all.

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

The Attorney General's Office confirmed that the sentence has already been referred on the grounds that it is "unduly lenient".

Harris was jailed for a total of 12 indecent assaults - one on an eight-year-old autograph hunter, two on girls in their early teens and a catalogue of sordid abuse of his daughter's friend over 16 years.

The woman, who was once best friends with his daughter Bindi, said: "The attacks that happened have made me feel dirty, grubby and disgusting. The whole sordid saga has traumatised me."

She fell into alcoholism and abandoned any aspirations to live a normal life.

"As a young girl I had aspirations to have a career, settle down and have a family," the woman said.

"However, as a direct result of his actions, this has never materialised.

"The knowledge of what he had done to me haunted me. However, his popularity with the British public made it harder for me to deal with."

The statement went on: "Rolf Harris had a hold over me that made me a quivering wreck."

Another victim, who was assaulted by Harris when she visited England as a teenager, said the incident was a "turning point" in her life that she had never recovered from.

She said: "I have never felt safe since, I live in a constant state of anxiety."

Harris's youngest victim, who was indecently assaulted as she went to get his autograph when she was eight, said the moment was her first taste of independence, but in those few moments her "childhood innocence was gone".

She said: "I carried what Rolf Harris did to me for most of my life, it took away my childhood."

A fourth victim who was groped at a celebrity event in Cambridge when she was a teenager, said Harris "treated me like a toy".

Later, in an interview with ITV News, she spoke of the "unbelievable loss of trust" when he secretly touched her in front of a group of adoring fans.

"He was a celebrity. He was a family man. So you instantly trusted in him. He was a children's entertainer so by association you should be able to trust such a person.

"Everyone is laughing with him and adoring him while you're having that done to you. It's an unbelievable feeling of a loss of trust and a loss of innocence. That someone can do that to you and have a laugh and smile and joke with everyone as he's doing it."

The once-loved entertainer was exposed as a serial sex offender at the end of his trial on Monday, his hypocrisy brought into sharp relief by the fact he had funded and starred in an educational film warning children of the dangers of paedophiles.

In mitigation, Harris's QC Sonia Woodley said that Harris was already living on "borrowed time" and had been punished away from the court by being publicly shamed.

Harris, who had travelled from his Bray home by boat to learn his fate, sat in the glass-walled dock with a striped suitcase by his side and remained impassive as sentence was passed, with daughter Bindi watching from the public gallery.

His frail wife Alwen did not come to court today, although she has attended much of the trial.

Passing sentence in a packed courtroom, Mr Justice Sweeney told Harris: "For well over 50 years you have been a popular entertainer and TV personality of international standing with a speciality in children's entertainment. "You are also an artist of renown. You have been the recipient of a number of honours and awards over the years, you have done many good and charitable works and numerous people have attested to your positive good character.

"But the verdicts of the jury show that in the period from 1969 to 1986 you were also a sex offender, committing 12 indecent assaults on four victims who were variously aged between eight and 19 at the time."

He told the once-popular musician: "In every case the age gap between you and the victim was a very considerable one.

"You clearly got a thrill from committing the offences while others were present or nearby. Whilst others did not realise what you were doing their presence added to the ordeal of your victims."

The judge told the court he did not feel it was appropriate to order Harris to pay compensation to his victims, but his multi-million pound fortune remains at risk.

Mr Justice Sweeney said: "You will, however, pay the costs of the prosecution in such sum as may be agreed or assessed in due course."

The disgraced artist had a small reprieve this morning as prosecutors confirmed he will not stand trial over allegations that he downloaded sexual images of children.

Bindi, Harris's niece Jenny Harris and his long term agent Jan Kennedy left the court building looking grim faced just over an hour after he was jailed.

They faced a pack of waiting international media flanked by security guards, who pushed through the scrum to usher them in to a waiting car.

Speaking outside court, a representative of the youngest victim, who was abused at the age of eight by Harris as she got his autograph near Portsmouth, said: "(She) had only eight years of her life without this incident going round in her head and that was her first eight years.

"After these cameras have been dismantled and the media circus has rolled on to another town it will still be with her as it will be with the other girls.

"In due time (she) will eventually share her story and experiences through the proper channels with a view to helping other children who have suffered at the hands of adults whether they are on the telly or sitting beside them watching it.

"Hopefully that way some good can be brought from this sad case."

Harris's jail term has already been referred to the Attorney General for being "unduly lenient" after concerns were raised by a small number of members of the public.

A spokesman for the Attorney General said: "I can confirm that the sentence handed to Rolf Harris today has been referred to the Attorney General's Office under the unduly lenient sentence scheme.

"It only takes one person to trigger the process, and there is a strict 28 day time period, which means the Law Officers have until Friday 1 August to consider whether they wish to refer the sentence to the Court of Appeal"

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