LONDON: Veteran entertainer Rolf Harris, a household name in his native Australia and adopted home Britain, was jailed for almost six years Friday for repeatedly abusing young girls over decades while he was a beloved host of children’s television.
Handing down the sentence, Judge Nigel Sweeney said the 84-year-old, known for shows such as “Rolf Harris Cartoon Time” and songs including “Two Little Boys,” 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 7 or 8, between 1968 and 1986.
It was the second conviction in a long-running investigation into sex abuse by British celebrities that has led to soul-searching in the country, revealing that some of its most prominent stars of the 1970s and 1980s were serial pedophiles 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.”
During two months of hearing evidence, the court was told how Harris groped his victims, often while unsuspecting fans stood nearby.
“You clearly got a thrill from committing the offenses while others were present or nearby,” the judge said.
One victim said Harris had taken away her very “essence.”
“I have never felt safe since. I live in a constant state of anxiety,” she said in her statement, read out in court by a prosecution lawyer. “I know the person I am today is not the person I should have been.”
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 prime-time TV shows mostly aimed at children during five decades at the pinnacle of show business.
In 2005 he painted Queen Elizabeth’s portrait. Since Monday’s guilty verdicts he has been stripped of several honors both in Britain and Australia.
Harris sat motionless as the judge read out the sentence at a packed courtroom at London’s Southwark Crown Court Friday.
During the trial, the prosecution had portrayed the entertainer as a predator who groomed and abused one woman for her entire teenage and young-adult life.
The court was told he first assaulted the woman when she got out of the shower aged 13, and then repeatedly abused her until she was 28.
Harris was the biggest name to go on trial since British police launched “Operation Yewtree” to investigate child abuse by celebrities, following revelations two years ago that late BBC TV host Jimmy Savile had been a prolific child abuser.
Police launched the wide-reaching operation into historical sex crimes 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.