UK TV host Rolf Harris guilty of indecent assault

GREGORY KATZ
Associated Press

LONDON (AP) — Television entertainer Rolf Harris, known to generations of children in Britain and Australia for his friendly screen presence, was found guilty Monday of a string of indecent assaults on young girls that took place from the ’60s to the ’80s.

The conviction marked a stunning reversal for Harris, 84, whose popularity on children’s TV in Britain rivaled that of “Captain Kangaroo” in the United States. The judge said Harris should expect prison time when he is sentenced Friday.

The man who appeared in hundreds of TV shows and even painted an official portrait of Queen Elizabeth II will likely now be remembered chiefly as a sexual predator.

A jury found the Australian-born broadcaster guilty of 12 counts of indecent assault on four victims aged 19 or younger.

Prosecutor Jenny Hopkins said Harris’ victims all reported a similar pattern of abuse by a man who believed he could act without fear of consequences.

“Rolf Harris used his status and position as a world-famous children’s entertainer to sexually assault young girls over a period spanning 18 years,” she said, adding that the victims had “suffered in silence” for decades.

Among the victims was a close friend of his daughter Bindi who told the court that Harris had sexually abused her numerous times when she was a teenager.

Prosecutors said Harris told police the relationship was consensual and only started after the girl reached 18.

The prosecution described Harris as having a “Jekyll and Hyde” personality divided between a generous, kind side and a dark side that believed he could get away with sex crimes against young girls because he was too famous and powerful to be brought to justice.

Prosecutors said the victims did not know each other and had come forward independently to report the abuse.

During the trial — which saw Harris accompanied to court on most days by his wife Alwen and daughter — six witnesses who were not part of the criminal case testified that Harris had assaulted them. One said she was 11 or 12 when Harris told her he wanted to be the first person to teach her how to tongue kiss.

Harris was well-loved in Britain, where he performed for the queen’s Diamond Jubilee concert in 2012. He was also known for musical hits including the novelty song “Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport” and had performed once with the Beatles.

He is one of several veteran entertainers in the U.K. to face sex charges since TV host Jimmy Savile was exposed as a serial child molester after his death in 2011.

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