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Rolf Harris - The Sentence

Rolf Harris
Rolf Harris arriving for the 2012 Pride of Britain Awards | Image:  Featureflash Photo Agency /

Rolf Harris was a beloved entertainer who was on our screens for over 50 years and received honours for his work. So, for many it was a shock when he was found guilty of 12 offences of indecent assault involving four victims. He was sentenced to 5 years and 9 months. This sentence could have been much longer under the ‘Sentencing Council Definitive Guidelines’ (maximum 24 years) but the judge considered six mitigating factors and many of the sentences for each count was ordered to run concurrently.

Was Rolf Harris’s sentence reflective of his crimes?

This can be debated… when considering what sentence to impose a judge has to make the decision based on sentencing guidelines and considers both aggravating and mitigating factors. When giving his summary of the case the Judge made reference to the psychological damage caused to the victims, the fact he took advantage of the trust placed in him by one of the victim’s family and the trust his celebrity status gave him. However, when considering mitigating factors the judge referred to Harris’s offences as brief and opportunistic! (planned offences are judged more harshly). One of the victims (a friend of his daughter’s) was groomed and abused over years, so I take exception to this being a “brief and opportunistic offence”. Sex offenders who groom victims plan meticulously what they will do/say in order to carry out their crime. Harris had no previous convictions which is often the main factor when determining an appropriate sentence. Other mitigating factors referred to his good character, his age and health and that of his wife’s. It appears his age (84 at the time of conviction) and health were contributing factors in the lesser sentence awarded. The judge was also restricted as he could only impose the maximum sentence allowed during the period that the crimes were committed.

Do you think his celebrity status influenced the sentence?

It is argued that celebrities and people in positions of power are given harsh sentences as they are used as examples. It doesn’t seem as though this has happened in this case. It appears that despite the judge summing up that Rolf Harris caused severe psychological harm to his victims, the mitigating factors were such to reduce the sentence significantly.Rolf Harris’s prison experience…