Nov 7th 2017
- Rolf Harris, 87, applying to get 12 sex convictions overturned at Court of Appeal
- Artist was convicted of 12 indecent assaults against four young girls in 2014
- Also convicted of catalogue of abuse against daughter’s friend over 16 years
- But Harris hired private investigator who traced witnesses with fresh evidence
- Father of victim, aged eight, said entertainer couldn’t have groped his daughter as he wouldn’t have allowed her out
Rolf Harris could have all 12 of his sex convictions quashed after the father of his youngest victim claimed the assault could not have taken place.
The disgraced entertainer, 87 launched a bid at London‘s Court of Appeal on Tuesday as he claims fresh evidence proves he did not have the right to a fair trial.
The entertainer, 87, was jailed for five years and nine months in 2014 for assaulting an eight-year-old and two teenage girls and abusing his daughter’s friend.
But now those convictions could be overturned as three judges will examine the 12 counts and decide how to proceed.
The cartoonist, singer and TV presenter hired private investigators to track down key witnesses including police officers.
The father of the youngest victim told a court due to her age he would not have let her go to a community centre where she said Harris groped her in Portsmouth in 1969.
The victim’s father said he would have known if Harris was there at the time of the offence as it would have been ‘common gossip’ and he simply ‘would not allow her to go’ because of her age.
Harris’s defence barrister Stephen Vullo QC said: ‘Is the reality just blindingly obvious that he just never attended?
‘In my respectful submission this is classic fresh evidence – it is real and an issue that was not raised at trial.’
Mr Vullo called retired detective superintendent Graham Piper and retired detective constable Peter Spencer, who worked at the police station 50 yards from a community centre in Leigh Park, Portsmouth, where Harris was said to have molested a young autograph hunter.
Both repeated their testimonies they gave at trial that they were not aware of Harris ever attending the community centre.
They said they would have known if he had so done because of the celebrity’s draw.
But under further cross examination from prosecutor Jonathan Rees QC they both admitted that Harris could have attended the centre, between 1968 and 1969, without their knowledge.
Mr Vullo said: ‘He has absolutely no motive to undermine this court – he is, in my submission, an honest witness.
‘It is possible, I suppose, that he (Harris) turned up to the centre and then disappeared without anyone knowing – or actually is the reality just blindingly obvious that he just never attended?’
Mr Rees said the submissions put forward by the defence do not add ‘to the weight of the evidence that was before the jury’.
At the end of today’s hearing, Lord Justice Treacy announced the court would not give a ruling immediately after submissions from both sides were completed.
He said the application ‘requires careful consideration and assessment’.
Harris was convicted of 12 indecent assaults at Southwark Crown Court in June 2014 – on the eight-year-old autograph hunter, two teenage girls and abuse against his daughter’s friend over 16 years.
He was then stripped of his hat-trick of honours following those verdicts, including an MBE in 1968, an OBE in 1977 and a CBE in 2006 after he was jailed for five years and nine months.
A few months later he was found guilty he failed in an attempt to bring a challenge to a judge who refused his application for permission to appeal.
In May this year the former Animal Hospital presenter was formally cleared of unconnected historical sex offences which he had denied.
A second jury trying the shamed TV star over claims he molested three young female fans had been discharged after failing to reach verdicts.
He was released from HMP Stafford on 19 May after serving less than half the sentence.
The Australia-born artist insisted his convictions in 2014 left him ‘vulnerable’ to fake claims from liars looking to make a quick buck or a spot in the limelight.
Harris, formerly of Bray, Berkshire, is the highest profile celebrity to be tried under the Metropolitan Police’s Operation Yewtree probe, launched in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal.
The hearing continues