Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Rolf Harris caged: Victims' anguish laid bare as sex beast jailed

Rolf Harris outside Southwark Crown Court before he was sentenced for a string of indecent assaults
Rolf Harris outside Southwark Crown Court before he was sentenced for a string of indecent assaults

The pain of the women who fell prey to convicted paedophile Rolf Harris was laid bare as he was told he will serve just under three years in prison for a string of sex crimes.

As the shamed entertainer, finally unmasked as a predator who was fixated with underage girls, was sentenced at London's Southwark Crown Court, statements from the four girls he targeted over decades detailed their ordeals.

The court heard how Harris's sordid 16-year campaign of sex abuse against his daughter's friend "haunted" her and made her abandon her dreams as he continued to be adored by millions of fans worldwide.

The Attorney General's Office confirmed that the sentence of five years and nine months, of which he will serve half, has already been referred on the grounds that it is "unduly lenient".

Harris was jailed for a total of 12 indecent assaults – one on an eight-year-old autograph hunter, two on girls in their early teens and a catalogue of sordid abuse of his daughter's friend over 16 years.

The woman, who was once best friends with his daughter Bindi, said: "The attacks that happened have made me feel dirty, grubby and disgusting. The whole sordid saga has traumatised me."

She fell into alcoholism and abandoned any aspirations to live a normal life.

"As a young girl I had aspirations to have a career, settle down and have a family," the woman 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."

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.

She said: "I have never felt safe since, I live in a constant state of anxiety."

Harris's youngest victim, who was indecently assaulted as she went to get his autograph when she was eight, said the moment was her first taste of independence, but in those few moments her "childhood innocence was gone".

She said: "I carried what Rolf Harris did to me for most of my life, it took away my childhood."

A fourth victim who was groped at a celebrity event in Cambridge when she was a teenager, said Harris "treated me like a toy".

The once-loved entertainer was exposed as a serial sex offender at the end of his trial on Monday, his hypocrisy brought into sharp relief by the fact he had funded and starred in an educational film warning children of the dangers of paedophiles.

In mitigation, Harris's QC Sonia Woodley said that Harris was already living on "borrowed time" and had been punished away from the court by being publicly shamed.

Harris, who had travelled from his Bray home by boat to learn his fate, sat in the glass-walled dock with a striped suitcase by his side and remained impassive as sentence was passed, with daughter Bindi watching from the public gallery.

His frail wife Alwen did not come to court today, although she has attended much of the trial.

Story so far

Rolf Harris faces spending the rest of his natural life behind bars after he was jailed for five years and nine months for a string of sex crimes involving four girls.

The 84-year-old entertainer, a family favourite for decades, was finally unmasked as a prolific paedophile with his conviction for 12 indecent assaults. A judge told him he had shown no remorse, and his reputation was now in ruins.

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