Rolf Harris plans to fight charges of indecent assault

Rolf Harris
Rolf Harris The Independent

THE television presenter and artist Rolf Harris plans to deny indecently assaulting two teenage girls three decades ago, following his first court hearing over 13 sex offences.

The 83-year-old artist faced banks of cameras yesterday as he arrived at Westminster Magistrates' Court in central London, accused of nine counts of indecent assault from the 1980s and four counts of making indecent images of a child last year.

Dozens of cameramen and photographers were held back by crowd control fences as Mr Harris, accompanied by his wife Alwen and a small group of supporters, was ushered inside. One supporter waiting outside held a placard asserting his innocence.

Mr Harris was first questioned in November last year and arrested earlier in 2013, but he was not named for months.

He was charged last month with six offences of indecent assault against a girl aged 15-16 in 1980-81, and three against a second girl aged 14 in 1986.

Mr Harris, wearing a dark suit and multi-coloured tie, faltered after he was asked to give his name, address and date of birth during the five-minute appearance and he asked for the question to be repeated.

The case should be transferred to a higher court because of the number, nature and repeated allegations of offending against him, said prosecutor Christine Atahanasius. Mr Harris listened from inside the glass panelled dock as Sonia Woodley QC, representing him, told the court his indicated pleas would be not guilty.

Mr Harris was given conditional bail and was told to live at his home in Bray, Berkshire, not to speak with a number of named witnesses, and not to have any contact with anyone under the age of 18 unless accompanied by someone aged over 21.

Deputy chief magistrate Emma Arbuthnot said: "Clearly my powers are insufficient in this case and this matter will be going to the Crown Court."

The case was adjourned until 7 October to Southwark Crown Court. Harris walked slowly from the court building with his wife, who was using a walking stick, as police pushed back a tightly packed crowd of photographers and cameramen.

He declined to comment to shouted questions as the couple struggled to get into their car.

The entertainer was questioned by detectives from Operation Yewtree, the inquiry that grew from allegations against Jimmy Savile, last year.

Police said that the allegations had no link to his fellow BBC presenter Savile, who was unmasked as one of the country's worst paedophiles last year following his death.

The DJ Dave Lee Travis and PR guru Max Clifford, have already appeared in court following charges laid after inquiries by Operation Yewtree. They have both denied wrongdoing.

Mr Harris, who painted a portrait of the Queen in 2005 and performed at her Diamond Jubilee concert last year, has been a family favourite for decades.

He hosted his own BBC1 program, The Rolf Harris Show, in 1967 before moving on to children's television in the 1980s and then to Animal Hospital, which he hosted from 1994 to 2004.

Mr Harris was awarded an MBE in 1968, an OBE in 1977 and a CBE in 2006, and was made Officer of the Order of Australia in the Queen's Birthday Honours list last year.

Topics:  celebrity courts editors picks rolf harris

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