LIVE: Reaction to Rolf Harris indecent assault conviction

LIVE: Reaction to Rolf Harris indecent assault conviction

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Nick Mayo

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LIVE: Reaction to Rolf Harris indecent assault conviction

Veteran entertainer and Bray resident Rolf Harris has been found guilty of 12 counts of indecent assault at Southwark Crown Court.

He was convicted by a jury today of assaulting four girls aged seven to 19 between 1968 and 1986.

This page will be updated with news and reaction as it comes in.


Friday, July 4, 3.50pm:

Police have released the victim impact statements:

Following Rolf Harris' sentencing, DCI Michael Orchard said:

"The court has today heard about the impact these crimes have had on those involved. Once again I would like to thank all the victims for their courage in coming forward.

If there is any person that wishes to speak with the police they can contact their local police team or the NSPCC"

The following statement was read outside court by a family friend of one of the survivor’s - on behalf of the survivor’s brother.

"I would like to read a statement written by the brother of this man’s youngest survivor.

"On behalf of my sister, of whom I am so very proud, we would like to extend our thanks to all those connected with Operation Yewtree and particularly those officers who behind the scenes do so much work at the coal face of these investigations, walking the streets, knocking doors, and dropping leaflets and interviewing prospective witnesses. These officers leave no stone unturned while collating evidence, much of which cannot even be used for various reasons. Your work needs to be both applauded and recognised because your efforts do uncover nuggets of evidence that help those leading these investigations piece together these complicated and sensitive jigsaws. Thank you.

"I would also like to thank all those who have stood by my sister throughout this ordeal her family and friends, you know who you are. We would like to shout your names but to save you from press intrusion will thank you all personally. My sister has had only eight years of her life without this incident going round in her head; and that was her first eight.

"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 with the other girls. So may I ask the media not to pursue her or members of her family for any sensational stories; there are none.

"In due time my sister 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 sat beside them watching it. Hopefully that way some good can be brought from this sad case."

Victim impact statements:

Statement One:

When I was eight years of age I was an innocent child. I was happy in my family and had no concept of anything of a sexual nature. When I attended the community centre, it was my first taste of independence. On that day and in the space of a few minutes my childhood innocence was gone.

At the time when I was sexually assaulted, the word paedophile was not in my vocabulary; neither were the words to describe what had happened to me. I was left thinking who would believe me? I blamed myself for what had happened; was it something I had done? Was it because I was different?

All these questions left me angry and confused. I became an angry child unable to express myself and unable to trust men. I took this with me into my teens and did not like to be touched. It made having normal relationships difficult. I would have to endure seeing Rolf Harris on TV and seeing him would instantly take me back to when I was eight years old. When I would see him I would tell people he was a dirty old man. I knew when I said this that people did not believe me. The only person who I think truly believed me was my partner.

When Jimmy Savile was exposed, I had the courage to tell people. I felt I would be believed. I felt so much guilt that I had not said something earlier. This was made worse when I read that Rolf Harris had abused others. I again blamed myself for not having the courage to say anything sooner. The police helped me but the court case was very stressful. I felt people would be judging me and I would have to re-live the whole ordeal again almost as if I were an eight-year-old little girl again. It caused me sleepless nights with worry and I came near to not giving evidence at court.

I have carried what Rolf Harris did to me for most of my life. It took away most of my childhood; it affected every aspect of my life from the point he assaulted me. Something he did to me for fun that caused me physical and mental pain for his own pleasure and then probably forgot about as quickly as he did it has had a catastrophic effect on me and I only hope now he has been found guilty he will realise the effect he has had on mine and others lives.

Statement Two:

I have been asked to describe the effects of the abuse that I have suffered over the years at the hands of Rolf Harris. The attacks that happened have made me feel dirty, grubby and disgusting. The whole sordid saga has traumatised me. I have panic attacks and suffer from anxiety. The effects of the abuse have been with me for many years. I started drinking at the age of 14 to 15 years old. This was to block out the effects of what he was doing to me.

This has had an effect on my relationship with my parents and people close to me. The slightest thing would upset me, I would get so angry, my reaction would be disproportionate and over the top. As a young girl I had aspirations to have a career, settle down and have a family. However, as a direct result of his actions, this has never materialised. I have never had a meaningful relationship whilst sober. I have also never been able to hold down a job. This was down to the need to block out what he had done to me through drink.

During the abuse I was in two minds about telling my best friend, Bindi, what was going on. I was not able to tell her or anyone as this was the great Rolf Harris, entertainer and artist. I was the irrational shy girl who drank a lot. The drinking got so out of control that I got down to 6 and a half stone. Even seeing him on TV made me sick. 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. Every time I saw him on TV he would grate on me. His animal shows were the worst, he never showed any interest or kindness to my dogs.

Rolf Harris had a hold over me that made me a quivering wreck. I was petrified of him to such a degree that I would stutter and stammer. My facial muscles would twitch involuntarily, I was scared of him. He made me feel like a sexual object. He used and abused me to such a degree that it made me feel worthless. With his manipulative behaviour I honestly felt that no one would believe me. I had to start dealing with my alcoholism on my own. My loved ones could not understand why I drank so much until I told them what Rolf had done to me for so long. Fortunately they believed what happened to me. I was then strong enough to get help for my alcoholism. I have been dry since the year 2000. I am still suffering from panic attacks and severe anxiety and as a result, I am unable to communicate and socialise with people. I therefore confine myself to only my immediate friends and family. This has made my world very small.

Rolf Harris knowing what he has done to me put me through the ordeal of appearing at court. Not only this, but his arrogance has put my elderly parents, who are over 80 years old, through the worry and stress of giving evidence. I feel that he has tried to humiliate me by getting me to talk about the abuse I have suffered in a public arena. He has tried to make out that I was lying. I believe he thought he would make me crumble like I used to. But I am better than I was and having gone through the court process will continue to recover.

I have found the court process scary and daunting. However his demeanour and attitude has shown a total disregard and respect for me and others. His flippant behaviour in court I find astonishing. I would like to thank my liaison officers Bal and Ben for their help and support. Without them I would have found it difficult to go through the whole procedure from initial interview through to court proceedings and beyond.

At court I felt well cared for and supported. Throughout my time there the police and witness care made my experience less traumatic despite Rolf's overwhelming arrogant behaviour. Sasha Wass QC was terrific and I feel that she allowed me to say my piece without being judged. The judge was very accommodating and made me feel at ease.

I suffered abuse at the hands of a person who thought he could get away with it. He made me feel that I would not be believed and as a result I suffered in silence. This has had a detrimental effect on my health and life outcome. I would therefore encourage anyone who has suffered or is suffering any kind of abuse to come forward because you will be believed. Especially by the police and Crown Prosecution Service who bring perpetrators to justice. My nightmare is finally over and I feel that justice will finally be done. I can now live my life with no fear and anxiety and can concentrate on building my life.

Statement Three:

I am thankful for the opportunity to explain the impact of the sexual assault that I suffered at the hands of Mr Harris.

The trip to the UK with the Shopfront Youth Theatre was, at the time, the trip of a lifetime. It was to become a turning point in my life that I have never recovered from. What Mr Harris took from me was my self belief, and more so the ability to feel safe. I have never felt safe since. I live in a constant state of anxiety.

In the time since, I had developed eating disorders, become an alcoholic, been in numerous bad and detrimental relationships, had my three children removed from my care. I have never pursued the academic achievement that I would have expected I would have or that I had believed was well within my abilities. I dropped out of high school before matriculating and have always felt self-conscious about this.

What Mr Harris took from me was my very essence. I believe that it was for Mr Harris a forgettable moment but it was something for me that I have never moved on from and will never forget.

The impact is also not just limited to myself, but my family and my children have suffered as a result. I am not able to parent them as I would have loved to do and each day is filled with the emptiness that losing your children brings.

I know that the person I am today is not the person I should have been. I have lost 28 years of my life and it is impossible to ever recover the loss of time or the complete me. I know that I will only ever be a small fragment of who I was meant to be and struggle each day with this. I want Mr Harris to understand the pain and destruction that his actions have caused me and my children.

I would love for Mr Harris to take responsibility for his actions, and for him to admit what he has done. I would hope he still has this capacity.


Friday, July 4, 3.28pm:

The Attorney General's office has confirmed the Rolf Harris sentence has been referred to it under the unduly lenient sentence scheme.

 


Friday, July 4, 3.17pm:

Extracts from sentencing remarks of Mr Justice Sweeney

"Rolf Harris you are 84 years old.

You have no previous criminal convictions or cautions recorded against you.

You are no longer in the best of health.

For well over 50 years you have been a popular entertainer and television 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 offences of indecent assault on 4 victims who were variously aged between 8 and 19 at the time.

There were a number of aggravating features. You took advantage of the trust placed in you, because of your celebrity status, to commit the offences against three of your victims.

All your offences in relation to ‘C’ (Counts 3-9) were committed in breach of the trust that her parents had placed in you, and two of them took place in her own home.

In every case the age gap between you and your victim was a very considerable one. You clearly got a thrill from committing the offences whilst others were present or nearby.

Whilst such others did not realise what you were doing, their presence added to the ordeal of your victims. It is clear from the evidence that what you did has had a significant adverse effect on each victim, and particularly so in relation to ‘C’ who suffered severe psychological injury in consequence.

None of the victims had the confidence to complain at the time. Each, including Tonya Lee, and especially ‘C’, showed considerable courage in eventually coming forward and in giving evidence.

You have shown no remorse for your crimes at all. Your reputation now lies in ruins, you have been stripped of your honours but you have no one to blame but yourself.

In her Victim Impact Statement, which I am sure is true, ‘C’ says, among other things, “…The attacks that happened have made me feel dirty, grubby and disgusting. The whole sordid saga has traumatised me. I have panic attacks and suffer from anxiety. The effects of the abuse have been with me for many years. I started drinking at the age of 14 to 15 years old. This was to block out the effects of what he was doing to me. This had an effect on my relationship with my parents and people close to me. The slightest thing would upset me, I would get so angry, my reaction would be so disproportionate and over the top. As a young girl I had aspirations to have a career, settle down and have a family. However, as a direct result of his actions, this has never materialised. I have never had a meaningful relationship whilst sober. I have also never been able to hold down a job. This was down to the need to block out what he had done to me through drink. Rolf Harris had a hold over me that made me a quivering wreck….He made me feel like a sexual object. He used and abused me to such an extent that it made me feel worthless….. I suffered abuse at the hands of a person who thought he could get away with it. He made me feel that I would not be believed and as a result I suffered in silence. This has had a detrimental effect on my life and health outcome….”.

I have no doubt, in view of the evidence given at trial by ‘C’, and by the doctors and counsellors who treated her, that it was your crimes against her that resulted in her becoming an alcoholic for many years with all that that entailed, and that thus (as I have already touched on) you caused her severe psychological harm.

I apply the approach to sentencing historic sexual offences set out in Annex B of the current Sentencing Council Definitive Guideline, and have also considered the guidance given in the judgment of the Court of Appeal in Attorney General’s Reference (No.38 of 2013)(R v Stuart Hall) [2014] 1 Cr.App.R. (S.) 61

On your behalf I am asked to take into account a number of matters in mitigation, including the following:

(1) With the exception of ‘C’ the offences were brief and opportunistic.

(2) The fact that you have no previous convictions and have led an upright life since 1994 -albeit it is accepted that that must be tempered by the reality, underlined in the Attorney General’s Reference (above), that you got away with your offending for years.

(3) The fact that you have a good side, that there are many people who know you who speak well of you, and that over many years you have dedicated yourself to a number of charitable causes.

(4) The fact that you are not in the best of health, as attested to in the report of Dr Fertleman, and that therefore, although capable of serving a prison sentence, it will be particularly tough on you.

(5) The fact that your wife, who you help in looking after, has various health problems, as attested to in the report of Dr Mitchell-Fox.

(6) That you should be enabled to spend your twilight years with your family.

I have no doubt, despite your age and the other matters relied upon in mitigation on your behalf, that given the seriousness of the offences and particularly those in relation to ‘C’) and the extent of the aggravating features that I have identified only an immediate custodial sentence is appropriate for each.

Sensibly, no argument to the contrary has been put forward on your behalf. Some of the sentences will be consecutive -in passing them I bear firmly in mind the principle of totality and have reduced a number of the sentences that I would otherwise have passed accordingly.

The sentences that I impose are as follows:

Count 1: 9 months’ imprisonment.

Count 2: 6 months’ imprisonment consecutive.

Count 3: 15 months’ imprisonment consecutive

Count 4: 15 months’ imprisonment concurrent

Count 5: 15 months’ imprisonment concurrent

Count 6: 12 months imprisonment concurrent

Count 7: 15 months’ imprisonment consecutive

Count 8: 12 months’ imprisonment concurrent

Count 9: 12 months’ imprisonment consecutive

Count 10: 9 months’ imprisonment concurrent

Count 11 9 months imprisonment concurrent.

Count 12 12 months’ imprisonment consecutive

The total sentence is therefore one of 5 years and nine months’ imprisonment

Unless released earlier, you will serve half that sentence when you will be released on licence for the remainder of the sentence. Should you breach the terms of that licence, including by the commission of further offences, you will be liable to recall.

Your convictions mean that you are automatically subject to the notification requirements of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 and you will also be considered under the provisions of the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006.

In my view it is not appropriate for me to make any awards of compensation. The issues involved are too complex and the information before me insufficient for me to be able to properly do so.

You will however pay the costs of the prosecution in such sum as may be agreed or assessed in due course."

 


 

Friday, July 4, 11.00am:

As we await Rolf Harris' sentence, here's what the Advertiser had to say following his conviction on Monday:

Many Maidonians will be feeling shocked and bewildered as they try to reconcile the public image of Rolf Harris with the Jekyll and Hyde character revealed in court over recent weeks.

For years Harris has been one of the brightest stars in the town’s celebrity firmament. From water safety announcements and plugging Stylophones when we were children, to countless TV shows and appearances, he won for himself what seemed an unassailable place in the hearts of the public.

Locally, having his name associated with an event or cause meant a huge boost to publicity and attendance. He was a national, and local, treasure.

His spectacular fall from grace will leave many of us feeling badly let down, betrayed even, that Rolf Harris of all people could be capable of such crimes.

But it seems it is this very celebrity status and public persona that allowed him to get away with such behaviour for so long. Even the press had been cowed. In the post-Leveson world Harris’s lawyers had been able to keep his name out of the papers for months as the police refused to confirm his identity. It took a national tabloid to defy them and bring the whole murky mess into the light.

As a result more allegations followed. It is conceivable that without that publicity he might even have escaped justice.

Sadly, Monday’s verdicts were the nails being hammered into the coffin of a more innocent outlook on life.

In its place will come the further erosion of trust in public figures and even greater cynicism. But perhaps this is not such a bad thing. We obviously have to choose our icons more wisely.


Thursday, July 3, 4.25pm:

Rolf Harris' squeaky clean reputation as a family favourite television star has been smashed after he was found guilty of indecently assaulting four young girls.

The revelation that Harris, who moved to Bray in the 1980s, groomed and assaulted girls has astonished people in the area.

Musician Laurie Holloway has worked with Harris since 1962, and was musical director for his BBC Radio show.

He said he it was a 'shock' that his long-term friend and neighbour is a covicted sex offender.

He said: "We followed the court case, we always thought he was innocent, as he professed of course."

Harris often made appearances at charity engagements.

In 2009 he opened an annexe at the Thames Valley Adventure Playground in Taplow.

Donations manager Nicky Hutchinson said the news that the Animal Hospital presenter is guilty was 'an enormous shock'.

The national media reported that the Australian entertainer was a patron of the adventure playground, but Nicky says the 2009 annexe opening was his only visit.

She added: "He has never been a patron of the charity."

Harris turned on the Maidenhead Christmas Lights in 2007.

Maidenhead's town centre manager Steph James said residents were 'delighted' that 'such a popular celebrity kick-started the festive celebrations.

She said: "We are now shocked and saddened to hear that he has been convicted of such appalling crimes."

Harris, 84,  is a well known artist, and he  painted a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II for her 80th birthday celebrations.

He frequently visited Bovilles Art Shop, where manager Marie Leonard said he had been a customer for 'decades'.

She said staff stood in 'stunned silence' as the verdicts came through, adding they are 'horrified' at Perth-born Harris.

Marie said: "We were looking at each other thinking 'oh god, that's just horrific'. It's horrendous for the poor people who had to stand up in court and re-live all that. And we all feel terribly sad for his family."


Thursday, July 3, 12.05pm:

 

Rolf Harris will be sentenced at Southwark Crown Court tomorrow - as fresh allegations emerge.


Thursday, July 3, 11.45am:

A sign condemning Harris was seen outside the Elva Lodge Hotel yesterday morning.

It read: "The Evil Cult of Celebrities: Savile, Hall, Glitter, Clifford and our very own Rolf Harris."

The comment was written in chalk on a board pinned to a tree at the hotel on Castle Hill.

By lunchtime the message had been replaced with a free speech quote from Winston Churchill.


Thursday, July 3, 10am:

Simon Meechan has been tracking the case throughout:

Arriving at Southwark Crown Court On May 6 to watch Rolf Harris go on trial was a surreal experience.

This was a man I'd grown up watching on TV, charming audiences with tales of cuddly cats and rescued rabbits on Animal Hospital.

I took my seat in courtroom two's small press gallery and shortly before 11am the instantly recognisable Harris walked in, flanked by his wife Alwen and with his silver-suited security team not far behind.

Once in the dock he looked quiet but fairly composed, as he spoke to confirm his name, and at one point muttered to the warden that the court assistant was 'good with names' as she called potential jurors to Justice Sweeney for selection.

For the rest of the day Harris sat quietly as the jurors were shortlisted and reminded of their duties.

In the following weeks the jury heard the prosecution presented by Sasha Wass, and the defence from Simon Ray and Sonia Woodley

The jury retired on Thursday, June 19. They were advised by Justice Sweeney to take time deliberating.

They certainly listened to that advice. The 12-strong jury took 35 hours to reach their verdict.

Last week reporters at the Advertiser office monitored the trial closely for a breakthrough, when eventually, just after lunchtime on Monday (June 30), the news rolled in that he was found guilty of all 12 charges.

Harris was bailed by Justice Sweeney and told to return to Southwark Crown Court tomorrow.

The focus for many news teams then switched to his family home in Bray's exclusive Fishery Road.

On Tuesday (July 1) morning I drove there and spoke to an Evening Standard reporter and a crew from the Australian Channel 9.

Both were hoping for a glimpse of Harris and a shot of him arriving at his luxury home.

One particularly crafty photographer was camped on the other side of The Thames, hoping to catch Harris sneaking home by crossing the Thames by boat.

But Harris was nowhere to be seen, with neighbour Laurie Holloway told me that he was 'lying low' ahead of Rolf's return to Southwark tomorrow.


Thursday, July 3, 9.10am:

Here is a transcript of the letter released earlier this week by Metropolitan Police, in which Rolf Harris begs for forgiveness from one of the victim's fathers over his relationship with her:

Please forgive me for not writing sooner.

You said in your letter to me that you never wanted to see me or hear from me again, but now [the woman] says it’s alright to write to you.

Since that trip up to Norfolk, I’ve been in a state of abject self-loathing. How we delude ourselves. I fondly imagined that everything that had taken place had progressed from a feeling of love and friendship – there was no rape, no physical forcing, brutality or beating that took place.

When I came to Norfolk, [the victim] told me that she had always been terrified of me and went along with everything that I did out of fear of me. I said ‘Why did you never just say no?’, and [the woman] said how could she say no to the “GREAT TELEVISION STAR ROLF HARRIS!”

Until she told me that, I had no idea that she was scared of me. She laughs in a bitter way and says I must have known that she has always been scared of me. I honestly didn’t know.

[the woman] keeps saying that all this has been going on since she was thirteen. She’s told you that, and you were justly horrified, and she keeps reiterating that to me, no matter what I said to the contrary. She says admiring her and telling her she looked lovely in her bathing suit was just the same as physically molesting her. I didn’t know. Nothing took place in a physical way until we had moved to Highlands. I think about 1983 or 84 was the first time.

The first time I can pinpoint a date was 1986, because I remember I was in pantomime at Richmond.

When I see the misery I have caused [the woman] I am sickened by myself.

You can’t go back and change things that you have done in this life – I wish to god I could. When I came to Norfolk, spent that time with [the woman] and realised the enormity of what I had done to [the woman], and how I had affected her whole life, I begged her for forgiveness and she said ‘I forgive you.’ Whether she really meant it or not I don’t know. I hope she did, but I fear she can never forgive me. I find it hard to like myself in any way, shape or form and as I do these Animal programmes, I see the unconditional love that dogs give to their owners and wish I could start to love myself again.

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