Rolf Harris sentenced to five years and nine months in jail for string of indecent assaults
The entertainer has appeared in court for sentencing today after being found guilty of 12 counts of indecent assault at London's Southwark Crown Court
Heather Saul is a digital reporter for The Independent, currently working on the People desk. She has written news and features across a number of topics, paying particular attention to the activities of Isis and events in Iraq, Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Friday 04 July 2014
Rolf Harris has been sentenced to five years and nine months in prison in a court today for a string of indecent assaults.
Mr Justice Sweeny said the entertainer had shown no remorse as he sentenced the 84-year-old at Southwark Crown Court for 12 counts of indecent assault.
The office of the Attorney General has now confirmed his prison sentence has been referred under the "unduly lenient sentence scheme".
A spokesman for the Attorney General’s office told the BBC it "only takes one person to trigger the process", and the sentence must be considered within 28 days for possible referral to the Court of Appeal.
In his remarks, the judge said the musician had been a star for over 50 years and noted that he is no longer in the best of health, but said the verdicts of the jury showed he was “also a sex offender” between 1968 and 1986, whose “reputation lies in ruins”.
Video: Harris sentenced to prison
He said Harris took advantage of the trust placed in him through his celebrity status, adding: “You clearly got a thrill from committing offences while others were nearby.”
Harris had shown “no remorse at all” throughout the trial, he continued, telling him: “You have been stripped of your honours, you have nobody to blame but yourself”.
Harris remained emotionless in the dock as he listened to the judge’s remarks via a court hearing loop. His wife Alwen did not come to court today as she was apparently unwell, although she has attended much of the trial.
Ahead of sentencing, the court heard of the damaging effects the abuse had on his victims, with the former friend of his daughter Bindi describing how the attacks made her feel “dirty, grubby and disgusting”, and led to her developing a drinking habit at an early age.
"As a young girl I had aspirations to have a career, settle down and have a family," she 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."
In his sentencing remarks, the judge said he had “no doubt” that Harris’ crimes caused her “severe psychological harm”.
Rolf Harris arrives at Southwark Crown Court in London 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.
In her Victim Impact Statement, she said: "I have never felt safe since, I live in a constant state of anxiety."
Harris, from Bray in Berkshire, was convicted of nine assaults between 1968 and 1985 - one on a girl aged seven or eight, and the rest on teenagers aged between 14 and 19.
Video: Statement from Harris victim
His youngest victim, who Harris indecently assaulted as she went to get his autograph at a community centre as a young girl, said the moment was her first taste of independence, but in those few moments her "childhood innocence was gone".
She said she became an angry and confused child, unable to express herself and unable to trust men, adding: "I carried what Rolf Harris did to me for most of my life, it took away my childhood."
Rolf Harris was supported by his daughter Bindi (left) and wife Alwen (right), who was not present at his sentencing due to poor health
A fourth victim, who was assaulted when she was a teenager as Harris took part in a celebrity game show in Cambridge in the 1970s, said he took advantage of her, making her feel ashamed. She said: "He treated me like a toy that he had played with for his own pleasure."
In mitigation, Sonia Woodley QC had argued Harris had led an “upright life” for the last two decades, outlining his charitable acts, and said he needed to be with his family in the “twilight years” of his life.
Ms Woodley said that apart from the abuse of his daughter Bindi's friend - which seven of the 12 counts related to - Harris's assaults had been "opportunistic rather than predatory".
Prosecutors confirmed today that Harris will not stand trial over allegations he downloaded sexual images of children.
Victim impact statements
Seven of the 12 counts related to a former friend of Harris’s daughter Bindi.
She said: “The attacks that happened have made me feel dirty, grubby and disgusting. The whole sordid saga has traumatised me. 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. 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.
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 a degree that it made me feel worthless.”
Tonya Lee, who has waived her right to anonymity, said she has never recovered from her assault by Harris which took place when she visited England as a teenager.
She said: “I have never felt safe since, I live in a constant state of anxiety. 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 I will never move on from. I know the person I am today is not the person I should have been.”
Harris indecently assaulted one of his victims as she went to get his autograph at a community centre.
She said: “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 anything 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 something sooner. I carried what Rolf Harris did to me for most of my life, it took away my childhood.”
A fourth victim, who was assaulted when she was a teenager as Harris took part in a celebrity game show in Cambridge in the 1970s, said: “He treated me like a toy that he had played with for his own pleasure.”
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