Rolf Harris's lawyer pleads for leniency

Artist and television personality Rolf Harris arrives at Southwark Crown Court to face sentencing on 12 counts of indecent assault. (Photo: Getty Images)

Artist and television personality Rolf Harris arrives at Southwark Crown Court to face sentencing on 12 counts of indecent assault. (Photo: Getty Images)

Rolf Harris' lawyer has pleaded for leniency when it comes to his sentencing given the 84-year-old is already "on borrowed time".

The convicted sex offender had earlier arrived at court in London to be sentenced for 12 indecent assaults on four girls in the UK between 1968 and 1986.

The judge said the attacks were a "breach of trust", especially for the main victim, who was a childhood friend of Harris's daughter Bindi.

Other aggravating factors included the age gap between Harris and his victims, the youngest of whom was seven or eight.

The judge said he wouldn't consider compensation because assessing the psychological harm done to the victims was a complex process. Harris could, however, face a raft of damages claims in the civil courts.

Defence lawyer Sonia Woodley QC on Friday revealed the court had seen medical reports on Harris and his wife Alwen, who wasn't in court on Friday, with a family spokesman telling AAP she was suffering from arthritis.

Ms Woodley also argued, in mitigation, that Harris's attacks were "opportunistic rather than predatory".

The barrister added that Harris had no prior convictions and hadn't committed any sexual offences after 1994.

"For the last 20 years he has led an upright life," Ms Woodley told Southwark Crown Court.

She said since his arrest was made public in April 2013, his lawyers have received three lever arch files of letters and emails and two sacks of cards from supporters, including young children who have met the entertainer.

"Yes, he must be punished for the offences that he has committed, but it would be unfair to ignore the good that he has done in his life," she said.

Ms Woodley noted Harris had been patron of 16 charities during his life.

The 84-year-old, due to his age, was already on "borrowed time", she added.

"He has a limited lifespan left and that will be diminished by a prison sentence due to the state of his health," Ms Woodley said.

"Every day, every month in prison, is going to shorten his life."

The barrister said he needed some hope that in the future he could spend his twilight years with his family.

Since his conviction on Monday, Harris has been publicly shamed and stripped of various honours.

"He has already been punished apart from any sentence imposed by this court," Ms Woodley said.

The also heard court heard harrowing victim impact statements from all four of Rolf Harris' victims.

The main complainant said the attacks on her made her feel "dirty, grubby and disgusting".

It caused panic attacks and anxiety, and "the effects have been with me for many years"

She started drinking in her mid teens to blot out the effect of the assaults, and they affected her relationship with her parents.

She was unable to settle down and have a family.

"What he had done haunted me," she said. "Rolf Harris had a hold on me that made me a quivering wreck."

Her world had become very small, and coming to court had been an ordeal, she said.

Australian Tonya Lee said in her statement that her trip to the UK, where she was abused by Harris at age 15, was "a point in my life I have never recovered from".

She had never felt safe since, she said.

Since then she had suffered from anorexia and alcoholism and had three children removed into care.

"What Mr Harris took from me was my very essence," she said. "It was something I have never moved on from."

Complainant Miss R, who Harris abused when she was around 8-years-old, said her innocence had been taken away.

She blamed herself and became an angry child who didn't want to be touched. "It had a catastrophic effect on me," she said.

Complainant Ms P, who was groped by Harris at an event in Cambridge when she was around 16, said the encounter left her feeling powerless. "He treated me like a toy," she said. 

The 84-year-old entertainer set off for court from his home in Bray by boat, then transferred to a car for the journey to court.

He arrived with his daughter Bindi, niece Jenny but without wife Alwen.

With AAP


Smartphone
Tablet - Narrow
Tablet - Wide
Desktop