The terrible truth
The terrible truth
“Rolf is innocent OK!” Placard of support for Rolf Harris during his trial which echoed his 1970s variety show. As one of the most recognisable faces on television, and even after the Jimmy Savile revelations, it seemed inconceivable that Harris was guilty. Savile had always appeared eccentric and odd – but Rolf was the fun uncle you wished had brightened every birthday. Everyone who had grown up during the seventies, eighties and nineties had grown up with him.When the trial of Rolf Harris began in May 2014 in Southwark Crown Court, London, many were sceptical that the cartoon drawing, didgeridoo playing performer was guilty of being a sexual predator.Despite admitting that he had failed to be there for his wife and daughter, they were there for him nearly every day of the trial.“I remember the first day starting and seeing Rolf Harris arrive at court. He emerged from a big people carrier...he did the same routine every day...accompanied by his wife, Alwen, and his daughter Bindi.” Nick Pisa Journalist.
For seven weeks, they entered and exited the court with him.Harris faced 12 counts of indecent assault. Seven of them were against his daughter’s best friend. In total, he was accused of assaulting four girls, the youngest of whom was seven or eight and the oldest 19, between 1968 and 1986.He denied all the charges.
JEKYLL & HYDE
The prosecution portrayed him as a ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ character, able to in public be the affable Aussie everyone knew, but in private, be capable of appalling deviancy. As witness after witness testified against him, Harris remained silent, instead he often sketched. (It is, in fact, illegal to draw in court – even court artists must draw from memory.)Six women from Australia, New Zealand and Malta also gave evidence of him indecently assaulting them to illustrate his behaviour even though Harris couldn’t be prosecuted for those alleged offences in a British court. An Australian makeup artist described him as an octopus. The actor, Tony Porter, who had witnessed Harris groping a makeup artist, agreed to corroborate the story in court believing she was the lady he’d seen groped by Harris. It wasn’t. Harris had repeatedly taken advantage of women all over the world.All of his victims, bar one, gave their evidence anonymously.
“These are women who are having to go through the most intimate items of evidence. And they all found that very, very distressing...the giving of your most intimate secrets to a packed courtroom.” Liz Dux, Abuse Lawyer, Representing Harris’
Victims, Slater and GordonA lot of their evidence was too graphic for mainstream media to report. This gave some casual observers the false impression that the charges against Harris weren’t serious.In the face of mounting evidence, the defence simply responded by labelling the witnesses liars. But in the case of the Cambridge victim, there was proof that maybe it was Harris who was lying.The Cambridge victim was around 14 / 15 years old and had been assaulted by Harris in Cambridge in the mid 1970s. She was at a fun day on the green when Harris assaulted her. She told her friends but no one else. Harris denied ever having been to Cambridge.
The prosecution then played video footage of him at the event. He was clearly visible taking part in a swimming event.When it came to Harris giving evidence, he even sang at one point. Many were angered by this latest performance of Rolf Harris.
“There was just no remorse in him...He thought his fame was going to get him off and (he was) singing and behaving in a way that was just absolutely indifferent.” Liz Dux, Abuse Lawyer, Representing Harris’ Victims, Slater and Gordon‘LOVE ROLF’But the prosecution had the difficulty of proving their case when little physical evidence existed. There was no DNA and normally in such cases there is no documentary evidence at all.But one family had kept a letter written to them by Harris. It was a turning point in the trial.
“The nail...was this rather damning letter which he had written to the father of his daughter’s best friend in which he said what he thought was going on which was just basically reciprocated and that she was a willing partner.”Nick Pisa Journalist
In it, Harris had written, ‘I said, why didn’t you just say no?’He claimed she replied, ‘how could I say no to the great television star Rolf Harris’The letter ended with the words, ‘love Rolf’.At the end of June, Rolf Harris was found guilty of 12 counts of indecent assault.“It’s taken 30 years, but at least justice has been done.”Tony PorterA less self-indulgent human being would have admitted his guilt.
Instead, Harris had put his victims through yet more traumas by making them bear witness to his crimes publicly.Mr Justice Sweeney said the 84 year old entertainer had taken advantage of his celebrity status and had shown ‘no remorse’. Harris stared straight ahead as he was jailed.He was sentenced to five years and nine months.The victims wanted him to serve longer in jail and were bitterly disappointed.But the judge was restrained by the fact that sentencing was less severe back when the offences were committed.