London jury considers verdicts on Australian star Harris

20th June 2014, Comments 0 comments

The jury in the trial of Rolf Harris, the Australian entertainer accused of a string of sexual assaults against girls and young women, retired Thursday to consider their verdicts.

Following a six-week trial at a London court, jurors began their deliberations on the evidence against the 84-year-old artist, who has been a fixture on British television screens for decades.

The six men and six women were warned by judge Nigel Sweeney against being swayed by emotion.

Prosecutors claimed the presenter was a "Jekyll and Hyde" character who had a dark side to his personality and used his fame to abuse under-age girls with impunity.

But his defence lawyers said Harris's reputation had been "trashed" by a prosecution that did not reach the standard of criminal proof.

Harris denies 12 counts of indecent assault against four female complainants, aged from seven or eight to 19, between 1968 and 1986.

Seven of the counts relate to a friend of his daughter, who claims Harris assaulted her over several years, dating back to when she was 13.

In his summing up of the case, which began Tuesday, Sweeney told jurors they must come to unanimous conclusions on each separate count.

"Neither media nor Internet nor speculation nor emotion of any type can have any part whatsoever to play in your deliberations," the judge said.

"What is required of you is a cool, calm, careful and dispassionate consideration of the evidence together with the courage to return true verdicts based on the evidence, whatever the consequences may be."

Sweeney told the jurors they must not fall into the trap of thinking that because Harris chose to go into the witness box, "there must be an onus on him to prove something. There is not," he said.

He said they should try to "see the wood for the trees and to recognise a red herring when you see one and ignore it".

Sweeney also reminded jurors that Harris was the "recipient of a number of honours" and had "no criminal convictions or cautions recorded against him".

He also recounted how Harris moved to Britain in 1952, became a well-known popular entertainer and sang chart hits like "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport".

The jury was to return Friday to continue its deliberations.


© 2014 AFP

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