Rolf Harris jury told of previous convictions as new indecent assault trial begins

Stephen Delahunty

Rolf Harris jury told of previous convictions as new indecent assault trial begins

Disgraced former children's entertainer Rolf Harris allegedly assaulted a 12-year-old girl, a blind woman and several teenage schoolgirls, a court in London heard today.

Southwark Crown Court heard how Harris, who lived in Bray, is accused of seven counts of indecent assault, and one alternate charge of sexual assault spanning a period of 30 years beginning in 1971.

One of the alleged victims was as young as 12, while the oldest was 42.

Harris was allowed to appear via video link, as a result of his age and health, and was wearing a dark suit and grey tie.

The 86-year-old bearded former Animal Hospital presenter looked relaxed as the charges were read out against him.

In an unusual move, on opening, prosecutor Mr Jonathan Rees, QC, told the jury of seven women and five men about Harris' previous trial and subsequent imprisonment.

Harris continues to maintain his innocence in respect of all 12 previous offences and pleaded not guilty to the eight fresh charges.

Each of the new alleged victims contacted the NSPCC or police in the wake of the widespread publicity of the first trial.

Facing the jury Mr Rees said: “Most if not all of you will recognise Mr Harris as someone who, for well over 50 years, has been an artist, popular entertainer and television presenter of international standing.

“However, on July 4, 2014, following a trial that received widespread publicity, Mr Harris was convicted of 12 offences of indecent assault."

Referring to the new trial, he said: "One notable feature of the case is that none of these assaults is alleged to have happened in private.

“Whether it was Mr Harris celebrity status that apparently made him so brazen is something that you may wish to consider.”

The earliest charge of indecent assault relates to alleged events at a youth music festival that was held at the Lyceum Theatre in London over two days in July 1971.

The court was told the alleged victim, who was 14 at the time, recalled Harris looking at her in a 'smirky way' and putting his hand up her skirt as she approached him for an autograph while her parents were present.

In another charge, Harris allegedly assaulted a blind and disabled woman at a hospital after telling her: “Has anyone told you what a good-looking woman you are?”

The court heard Harris attacked the woman after taking his wobble board and didgeridoo to perform at the hospital.

His youngest alleged victim was 12 years old.

The prosecution told the court that, in plain sight of her mother, Harris leaned down before signing the girl’s autograph book and said ‘let me give you a cuddle’ while putting one arm around her back and one up her skirt.

Another alleged victim, who was 16 at the time, claims she was told she was ‘a bit irresistible’ before Harris cupped her breast.

In 1983, after a live edition of Saturday Superstore on the BBC at White City, a then 13-year-old alleges Harris slid his open right hand, over her clothing, across her body and under her right breast.

As he did so, the court was told, he quietly said to her ‘do you often get molested on a Saturday morning?’

Harris also stands accused of indecently assaulting an 18-year-old woman at a concert in 2002.

The final accusation of indecent or sexual assault relates to an incident in April or May 2004.

At a wrap party for a TV programme, it is alleged that Harris pushed the victim against a screen using his body weight and grabbed hold of her breasts, and proceeded to rub his crotch against her.

The court was told Harris did not say anything at the time and, despite there being lots of people around, no-one reacted.

The alleged victim recalled telling a group of women at the party after the incident that he ‘was a dirty old man’.

Late in the afternoon, the prosecution called its first witness, the alleged victim from count one.

Speaking via video link she described how she went over to where Harris was signing autographs, where ‘he grabbed me from behind by the waist and sat me on his lap’.

When asked where Harris touched her, she said: “It was in the vaginal area, as close as you could get, but his hand wasn't there for long at all.”

The witness said she ran straight over to her father and told him straight away.

She told the court her father immediately went to speak to Harris but she was unsure what was said.

The jury was shown a picture of the alleged victim with Harris, taken at the Lyceum at the time of the incident.

The picture was placed in a scrapbook that was kept by the victim’s parents.

On cross-examination the defence, led by Mr Stephen Vullo, QC, began to question why either her or her father would keep such an image if the indecent assault took place.

The trial continues.

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