“I don’t mind how they [people] see me as long as they see me,” veteran entertainer Rolf Harris said in an interview to The Telegraph in 2010 about his dubious status as an artist, one of his many professions. Four years later, as he is sentenced for abusing young girls during decades as a beloved host of children’s television, one questions the moral quotient of the ‘any publicity is good publicity’ notion.
A household name in his native Australia and adopted home Britain, Harris was jailed for almost six years on Friday on the grounds of indecent assault, according to Reuters. Handing down the sentence, Judge Nigel Sweeney said the 84-year-old host of shows such as Rolf Harris Cartoon Time had shown no remorse for the harm he had done to his victims.
Harris was found guilty earlier this week of 12 counts of assaulting four girls, some as young as seven or eight, between 1968 and 1986. Harris’ conviction follows the advent of Operation Yewtree, a police investigation into sexual abuse allegations against British media personalities, which stipulates that no one is above the law, reported The Guardian.
The Harris investigation is a development in a series of revelations, which show that the most prominent stars of the 1970s and 1980s were serial paedophiles who evaded detection for decades. “It is clear from the evidence that what you did has had a significant adverse effect on each victim,” the judge told Harris, detailing how one woman had battled with alcoholism as a direct result of his abuse. “You have shown no remorse for your crimes at all.”
Harris sat motionless as the judge read out the sentence at a packed courtroom at London’s Southwark Crown Court. He was later led from the dock, wearing a grey suit, white shirt and multi-coloured tie. During the trial, the prosecution had portrayed the bearded, bespectacled entertainer as a predator who groomed and abused one woman for her entire teenage and young-adult life. The London court was told he first assaulted the woman when she was 13 years old, and then repeatedly abused her until she was 28 years old.
One of Harris’ first characters was Willoughby
An artist and musician who first earned fame in the 1950s with the top 10 hit novelty song Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport, Harris went on to present primetime television shows. Most of these shows were aimed at children during five decades at the pinnacle of show business. In 2005, he painted Queen Elizabeth’s portrait.
Police launched Operation Yewtree in the wake of the disclosures that Savile, who died in 2011 at 84, had managed to escape detection while abusing hundreds of children over the course of decades as one of Britain’s best-known celebrities, using his fame to gain access to victims and deflect suspicion. Since then, a dozen ageing British media luminaries have been the target of investigations over decades-old child abuse allegations. The country’s most well-known publicist, Max Clifford, was found guilty in May of indecently assaulting teenage girls some 30 years ago as part of the investigation.
According to BBC News, Harris’ Cartoon Time children’s show was a constant part of the BBC One schedules for a decade until 1989, with his Cartoon Club running on ITV for an additional four years. But when that was cancelled, he feared that his career had met its end and was subsequently diagnosed with clinical depression.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 6th, 2014.