Rolf Harris trial: He is an arrogant man who targeted fans mesmerised by his talents, says prosecution

Southwark Crown Court was told Harris targeted young fans

Rolf Harris targeted young fans whose "penalty" for their admiration was to suffer sexual assault at the hands of the star, a court has heard.

The veteran entertainer singled out girls who were mesmerised and beguiled by his fame and treated them as sexual objects that he could touch when he felt like it, Southwark Crown Court was told today.

In her closing speech to Harris's trial for a series of indecent assaults, prosecutor Sasha Wass QC branded the artist an "arrogant and brazen" man who thought he was untouchable.

She told the jury of six men and six women: "The girls who Mr Harris touched were innocent, young, admiring fans of his.

"He targeted fans who were mesmerised by his fame and talents. He was a children's entertainer and they were beguiled by his singing and painting.

"And the penalty of their admiration was to suffer sexual assault."

Harris faces 12 counts of indecent assault on four different alleged victims - all of which he denies.

Ms Wass said that evidence given by the four women, as well as claims by other witnesses to whom charges do not relate, showed that the star was a "sinister pervert who had a demon lurking beneath the charming exterior".

She said: "The evidence paints a picture of a man who believed he was untouchable because he was so famous. It paints a picture of a man who was arrogant and brazen and treated women and young girls as sexual objects to be groped and mauled as he felt like it."

The prosecutor urged jurors to decide the case on the evidence against the 84-year-old TV favourite, not on who he is.

She said: "In the courts of England and Wales all men are equal before the law.

"You can't buy your way out of a criminal charge, you can't bully your way out of a criminal charge, and you certainly can't sing your way out of a criminal charge."

Ms Wass said that allegations made by a friend of Harris's daughter had sparked an investigation into the "seemingly untouchable, world-famous children's entertainer".

She said: "Thereafter police investigations uncovered more and more women who felt able to come forward and describe what Rolf Harris had done to them when they were young and vulnerable and impressionable.

"Each woman, unknown to the others, describes a similar pattern of deviant sexual behaviour.

"The chances of any of them making up such similar accusations in the absence of knowing each other is absurd."

She added: "Rolf Harris may be a famous personality with a glittering career spreading over 60 years but before these courts he must answer the charges on the evidence like any other defendant.

"His celebrity status must neither benefit nor bias your deliberations, you will decide the case on the evidence against Mr Harris, not on the basis of who he is."

Ms Wass dismissed suggestions that Operation Yewtree - the investigation sparked by revelations about Jimmy Savile - was a "celebrity witch-hunt", or claims by observers that some alleged behaviour by celebrities was deemed acceptable at the time.

Of the accusations levelled at Harris, she said: "Neither Mr Harris's fame, old age nor talent can provide an excuse for this behaviour.

"The reason that the victims in this case did not feel able to report their experiences earlier is because they were intimidated by the prospect of their word going against that of the great Rolf Harris."

Ms Wass described the evidence given by the 10 witnesses who do not relate to the charges in the case, as building up a picture of Harris.

Comparing the evidence to one of Harris's own paintings, she said: "Each stroke can be a little bit vague or unclear but taken together you can identify what is happening."

She said each of the witnesses had painted a "portrait", showing the "Mr Hyde concealed behind Rolf Harris's Dr Jekyll who was his public profile".

Ms Wass dismissed Harris's explanations or denials for the various allegations made by witnesses "ruses" and "red herrings".

She said: "These are all very similar ruses tailor-made by Mr Harris to rebut each witness's testimony.

"And once you recognise the pattern these diversionary tactics can be dismissed rapidly."

Rolf Harris denies the charges against him. The case continues.

PA

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