Sentence for sex abuser Rolf Harris ‘too lenient’

Rolf Harris  arrives at Southwark Crown Court to be sentenced. Picture: PA
Rolf Harris arrives at Southwark Crown Court to be sentenced. Picture: PA
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THE pain of the women who fell prey to convicted paedophile Rolf Harris was laid bare yesterday as he was told he will serve just under three years in prison for a string of sex crimes.

As the shamed 84-year-old entertainer – unmasked as a predator 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 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.

Mr Justice Sweeney, jailing Harris for five years and nine months – of which he will serve half – said: “You have shown no remorse for your crimes at all.

“Your reputation lies in ruins, you have been stripped of your honours, but you have no one to blame but yourself.”

The Attorney-General’s off­ice confirmed that the sentence 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 Bindi’s best friend over 16 years.

The court heard she fell into alcoholism and abandoned any aspirations to live a normal life.

Harris was exposed as a 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 he 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 motor 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, his daughter Bindi watching from the public gallery. His frail wife Alwen did not come to court yesterday,
although she has attended much of the trial.

Passing sentence, Mr Justice Sweeney told Harris: “For well over 50 years, you have been a popular entertainer and TV personality of international standing with a speciality in children’s entertainment. You are also an artist of ren­own. You have been the recipient of a number of honours and awards over the years, you have done many good and charitable works and numerous people have attested to your positive good character.

“But the verdicts of the jury show that in the period from 1969 to 1986, you were also a sex offender, committing 12 indecent assaults on four victims who were variously aged bet­ween eight and 19 at the time.”

He told the once-popular music­ian: “In every case, the age gap between you and the victim was a very considerable one.

“You clearly got a thrill from committing the offences while others were present or nearby. Whilst others did not realise what you were doing, their 
presence added to the ordeal of your victims.”

The judge said he did not feel it was appropriate to order Harris to pay compensation, but his multi-million pound fortune remains at risk. Mr Justice Sweeney said: “You will, however, pay the costs of the prosecution in such sum as may be agreed or assessed in due course.”

Bindi, Harris’s niece, Jenny Harris, and his long-term agent Jan Kennedy left the court building looking grim-faced just over an hour after he was jailed.

They faced a pack of waiting international media flanked by security guards, who pushed through the scrum to usher them into a waiting car.

Speaking outside court, a representative of the youngest victim, who was abused at the age of eight by Harris as she got his autograph near Portsmouth, said: “[She] had only eight years of her life without this incident going round in her head and that was her first eight years.

“After these cameras have been dismantled and the media circus has rolled on to another town, it will still be with her as it will be with the other girls.

“In due time, [she] will eventually share her story and experiences through the proper channels with a view to helping other children who have suffered at the hands of adults, whether they are on the telly or sitting beside them watching it.

“Hopefully, that way some good can be brought from this sad case.”

Harris’s jail term has been ref­erred for being “unduly lenient” after concerns were raised by a small number of members of the public. A spokesman for the Attorney-General said: “I can confirm that the sentence handed to Rolf Harris has been 
referred to the Attorney-General’s office under the unduly lenient sentence scheme.

“It only takes one person to trigger the process, and there is a strict 28-day time period, which means the law officers have until Friday 1 August to consider whether they wish to refer the sentence to the Court of Appeal.”