Wiltshire victim of jailed Rolf Harris speaks out

Wiltshire victim of jailed Rolf Harris speaks out

Jailed entertainer Rolf Harris

Karen Gardner, who works for BBC Wiltshire

First published in Latest News

A Wiltshire woman's evidence proved important in convicting Rolf Harris it was revealed today as he was jailed for five years and nine months for a string of sex crimes involving four girls.

The 84-year-old entertainer, a family favourite for decades, was finally unmasked as a prolific paedophile with his conviction for 12 indecent assaults on Monday.

Today Karen Gardner, who lives near Marlborough, waived her right to anonymity to reveal that her whose written evidence formed part of the prosecution case against Harris.

Ms Gardner, who works for BBC Wiltshire, said that she was assaulted by the star in 1977 at a TV event in Cambridge when she was 16.

She went to police when Harris tried to deny ever having been at the event and today praised the way she was treated by them in taking the evidence against the disgraced Australian entertainer.

Harris touched her inappropriately several times as she worked as an assistant at the event.

Harris was not charged over the offences against Ms Gardner but was found guilty of 12 counts of indecently assaulting four girls in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s on June 30.

She told BBC Wiltshire this morning that jailing Harris would send a signal to others that there was no escaping justice for sexual offences, no matter how long ago they happened or how well-known the offender was.

Today at London's Southwark Crown Court Mr Justice Sweeney told him: "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."

Harris was unanimously found guilty of molesting four girls - one woman who was just seven or eight and was groped when she asked for his autograph, and another two who fell prey as young teenagers.

The veteran presenter, who charmed television audiences for decades, was also convicted of a catalogue of abuse against his daughter's then-best friend, who prosecutors said Harris groomed from the age of 13 and used like "his little toy".

The accusations dated between 1968 and 1986, and the girls were targeted between the ages of seven or eight and 19.

Harris, who earlier travelled from his Bray home by boat, sat in the glass-walled dock with a striped suitcase by his side remained impassive as sentence was passed, with daughter Bindi watching from the gallery.

His frail wife Alwen did not come to court today, although she has attended much of the trial.

Harris had a small reprieve this morning as prosecutors confirmed he will not stand trial over allegations that he downloaded sexual images of children.

Passing sentence in a packed courtroom, the judge 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.

"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 the victims.

"All your offences in relation to (Bindi's friend) 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 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.

"Rolf Harris, the sentence I pass upon you in total is one of five 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 your sentence.

"Should you break the terms of that licence, including by commission of further offences, you will be liable to recall."

The judge told the court he did not feel it was appropriate to order Harris to pay compensation to his victims, but said: "You will, however, pay the costs of the prosecution in such sum as may be agreed or assessed in due course."

Peter Watt, director of national services at the NSPCC, said: "Harris was opportunistic and brazen in targeting young girls and women. He took advantage of their trust in him and we heard through the evidence of his courageous victims just how profoundly damaging his abuse was on them for decades after.

"This sentence reflects the seriousness of his crimes and hopefully those he preyed upon can finally find some peace. It sends a message that no one is untouchable and justice can come at any time.

"Harris has not shown any remorse for what he has done and treated the whole court case like just another performance. Thankfully the jury saw through this charade and he will now have a considerable amount of time to reflect on the impact of his crimes."

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