Wednesday 25 April 2018

'You can't buy your way out of criminal charge', Rolf Harris jury told

Veteran entertainer Rolf Harris Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
Veteran entertainer Rolf Harris Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Veteran entertainer Rolf Harris may have had a glittering 60-year career, but he must answer to his criminal charges in the same way as anyone else, the jury at his indecent assault trial has been told.

Jurors at Southwark Crown Court were urged to judge the 84-year-old on the evidence against him, not on "who he is".

In her closing speech at the trial today, prosecutor Sasha Wass QC told the jury of six men and six women that the "untouchable, world-famous children's entertainer" had showed a pattern of "deviant sexual behaviour" on a number of victims who had no reason to make up their claims.

Ms Wass 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."

Harris is standing trial for 12 counts of indecent assault on four women between 1968 and 1986, all of which he denies.

Ms Wass today said that allegations by a friend of his daughter that he had abused her over 16 years sparked the beginning of an investigation into Harris.

She said the woman finally went to police in November 2012 - 34 years after she was allegedly first abused - adding: "And so began the investigation into the seemingly untouchable, world-famous children's entertainer.

"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," Ms Wass told the court:

"This trial has given these victims an opportunity to be heard for the first time.

"And the prosecution says that none of the victims has any motive for inventing a false account."

The prosecutor said the alleged victims' evidence had been compelling, and jurors could be "in no doubt of Mr Harris's guilt".

"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."

The prosecutor told the court that the trial has heard from 10 witnesses in total - four of whom charges relate to - and none knew each other, save for a mother and daughter.

Ms Wass dismissed suggestions that Operation Yewtree - the investigation established following the 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, he 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."

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