Australian entertainer Rolf Harris has been charged with 13 child sex offences.
The 83-year-old is being prosecuted as part of Operation Yewtree, the British police investigation sparked by revelations that the late television host Jimmy Savile was a prolific child sex abuser.
Harris is accused of nine counts of indecent assault, relating to two girls in the 1980s. Six of the offences relate to a girl who was 15 and 16 at the time, while the other three relate to a 14-year-old.
He was also charged with four offences of making indecent images of a child last year. According to UK tabloid The Mirror, if Harris is found guilty he faces a possible 10-year jail term.
Harris has been a family favourite in Australia and the United Kingdom for more than half a century – hosting children’s television shows and producing hit songs like “Two little boys” and “Tie me kangaroo down, sport”.
More recently he has also taken to the stages of popular music festivals like Glastonbury and Bestival, where he performs his songs and plays his trademark instruments the didgeridoo and his home-made “wobble board”. Harris is also a keen artist and was even commissioned to paint a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II in 2005.
Over the years Harris has racked up a succession of honours including a CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) for his services to entertainment, the community and charity.
Harris is due to appear in court on September 23.
Operation Yewtree began following a TV documentary made by UK channel ITV called “Exposure: The Other Side of Jimmy Savile”. The programme included allegations by several women who claimed to have been sexually abused by the TV host during encounters linked to his show and charity work.
Following the broadcast many other people came forward with similar allegations. The Metropolitan Police said earlier this year that they had identified around 450 potential victims, of which 214 formal crimes had been recorded. Savile’s alleged crimes include 34 rape offences and sexual assaults on underage hospital patients.
According to the investigation 73 percent of reported assaults were against those aged under 18 with 82% being female and the majority being in the 13-16 age group.
Operation Yewtree has been split into three strands: claims involving Savile, those involving Savile and others and further allegations that are not related to Savile but have come to light after the media reporting on the issue. Rolf Harris is being charged under the third unrelated strand of the investigation.
So far 14 people have been arrested in the Yewtree probe including a number of celebrities such as a glam rocker and convicted paedophile Gary Glitter and comedians Freddie Starr and Jim Davidson. Celebrity publicist Max Clifford was also charged with 11 counts of indecent assault and stands to face trial in March 2014.
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