The full sentence comments made by Justice Sweeney when sentencing Rolf Harris, convicted of 12 offences of indecent assault.
Rolf Harris you are 84 years old. You have no previous criminal convictions or cautions recorded against you. You are no longer in the best of health. For well over 50 years you have been a popular entertainer and television 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 offences of indecent assault on 4 victims who were variously aged between 8 and 19 at the time.
There were a number of aggravating features. You took advantage of the trust placed in you, because of your celebrity status, to commit the offences against three of your victims ‘A’ (Count 1), ‘B’ (Count 2) and Tonya Lee (Counts 10-12).
All your offences in relation to ‘C’ (Counts 3-9) were committed in breach of the trust that her parents had placed in you, and two of them took place in her own home.
In every case the age gap between you and your victim was a very considerable one. You clearly got a thrill from committing the offences whilst others were present or nearby.
Whilst such others did not realise what you were doing, their presence added to the ordeal of your victims.
It is clear from the evidence that what you did has had a significant adverse effect on each victim, and particularly so in relation to ‘C’ who suffered severe psychological injury in consequence.
None of the victims had the confidence to complain at the time. Each, including Tonya Lee, and especially ‘C’, showed considerable courage in eventually coming forward and in giving evidence.
You have shown no remorse for your crimes at all. Your reputation now lies in ruins, you have been stripped of your honours but you have no one to blame but yourself.
Whilst I do not sentence you in relation to what you did to ‘C’ in the decade that followed that offence, I am sure that offences against her continued until 1994. Indeed the point is made on your behalf that you have not committed any further offences since then.
In her Victim Impact Statement, which I am sure is true, ‘C’ says, among other things, “…The attacks that happened have made me feel dirty, grubby and disgusting. The whole sordid saga has traumatised me. I have panic attacks and suffer from anxiety. The effects of the abuse have been with me for many years. I started drinking at the age of 14 to 15 years old. This was to block out the effects of what he was doing to me. This had an effect on my relationship with my parents and people close to me.
The slightest thing would upset me, I would get so angry, my reaction would be so disproportionate and over the top. As a young girl I had aspirations to have a career, settle down and have a family. However, as a direct result of his actions, this has never materialised.
I have never had a meaningful relationship whilst sober. I have also never been able to hold down a job. This was down to the need to block out what he had done to me through drink. Rolf Harris had a hold over me that made me a quivering wreck….He made me feel like a sexual object.
He used and abused me to such an extent that it made me feel worthless….. I suffered abuse at the hands of a person who thought he could get away with it. He made me feel that I would not be believed and as a result I suffered in silence. This has had a detrimental effect on my life and health outcome….”.
I have no doubt, in view of the evidence given at trial by ‘C’, and by the doctors and counsellors who treated her, that it was your crimes against her that resulted in her becoming an alcoholic for many years with all that that entailed, and that thus (as I have already touched on) you caused her severe psychological harm
In an email from Australia Tonya Lee writes that what you did to her was a turning point in her life that she has never recovered from. She says, among other things, that “…What Rolf Harris took from me was my self belief and more so the ability to feel safe. I have never felt safe since. I live in a constant state of anxiety”.., She goes on to describe the difficulties that she and her children have faced since and continues “…What Mr Harris took from me was my very essence. I believe that it was for Mr Harris a forgettable moment but it was something for me that I have never moved on from and will never forget…”
I proceed upon the basis, as both sides have invited me to, that (consistent with her evidence at trial) your offences were not the sole cause of Tonya Lee’s problems
It was in the mid 1990s, and after it had stopped, that ‘C’ then still an alcoholic, finally told her family what you had done to her. In 1997 she confronted you and you sent that letter to her father in the hope of avoiding or minimising the consequences. You succeeded at that stage, but only because she was in no fit state to face making an official complaint.
However, following her brave recovery from alcoholism, and after extensive counselling and support from her family, it was ‘C’’s eventual complaint in the autumn of 2012 which began the series of events that led to your prosecution and conviction.
I apply the approach to sentencing historic sexual offences set out in Annex B of the current Sentencing Council Definitive Guideline, and have also considered the guidance given in the judgment of the Court of Appeal in Attorney General’s Reference (No.38 of 2013)(R v Stuart Hall)  1 Cr.App.R. (S.) 61
The maximum sentence on Count 1 is one of 5 years’ imprisonment, on each of Counts 2-9 it is one of 2 year’s imprisonment, and on each of Counts 10-12 it is one of 10 years’ imprisonment.
With the exception of Counts 10 & 11 the equivalent offences today attract significantly higher maximum sentences. For example on Count 1 the equivalent offence today is sexual assault of a child which carries a maximum of 14 years’ imprisonment and would be likely to involve a starting point of around one year’s imprisonment. On Counts 3,4,5,7,9&12 the equivalent offence today is assault by penetration which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and would be likely, to involve a starting point (given the severity of the psychological damage to ‘C’) of around 8 years’ imprisonment on Counts 3,4,5,7, & 9 and a starting point of around 4 years’ imprisonment on Count 12
On your behalf I am asked to take into account a number of matters in mitigation, including the following:
(1) With the exception of ‘C’ the offences were brief and opportunistic.
(2) The fact that you have no previous convictions and have led an upright life since 1994 – albeit it is accepted that that must be tempered by the reality, underlined in the Attorney General’s Reference (above), that you got away with your offending for years.
(3) The fact that you have a good side, that there are many people who know you who speak well of you, and that over many years you have dedicated yourself to a number of charitable causes.
(4) The fact that you are not in the best of health, as attested to in the report of Dr Fertleman, and that therefore, although capable of serving a prison sentence, it will be particularly tough on you.
(5) The fact that your wife, who you help in looking after, has various health problems, as attested to in the report of Dr Mitchell-Fox.
(6) That you should be enabled to spend your twilight years with your family.
I have no doubt, despite your age and the other matters relied upon in mitigation on your behalf, that given the seriousness of the offences and particularly those in relation to ‘C’) and the extent of the aggravating features that I have identified only an immediate custodial sentence is appropriate for each.
Sensibly, no argument to the contrary has been put forward on your behalf. Some of the sentences will be consecutive – in passing them I bear firmly in mind the principle of totality and have reduced a number of the sentences that I would otherwise have passed accordingly.
The sentences that I impose are as follows:
Count 1: 9 months’ imprisonment.
Count 2: 6 months’ imprisonment consecutive.
Count 3: 15 months’ imprisonment consecutive
Count 4: 15 months’ imprisonment concurrent
Count 5: 15 months’ imprisonment concurrent
Count 6: 12 months imprisonment concurrent
Count 7: 15 months’ imprisonment consecutive
Count 8: 12 months’ imprisonment concurrent
Count 9: 12 months’ imprisonment consecutive
Count 10: 9 months’ imprisonment concurrent
Count 11 9 months imprisonment concurrent.
Count 12 12 months’ imprisonment consecutive
The total sentence is therefore one of 5 years and nine months’ imprisonment
Unless released earlier, you will serve half that sentence when you will be released on licence for the remainder of the sentence. Should you breach the terms of that licence, including by the commission of further offences, you will be liable to recall.
Your convictions mean that you are automatically subject to the notification requirements of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 and you will also be considered under the provisions of the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006
In my view it is not appropriate for me to make any awards of compensation. The issues involved are too complex and the information before me insufficient for me to be able to properly do so.
You will however pay the costs of the prosecution in such sum as may be agreed or assessed in due course.
I order that a copy of the medical report from Dr Fertleman be provided to the Prison Service for their information.