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Dublin: 12°C Wednesday 23 September 2020

Former children's TV star Rolf Harris goes on trial over assault charges

Harris, 86, is accused of seven counts of indecent assault and one of sexual assault.

Image: Dominic Lipinski

FORMER TV STAR Rolf Harris goes on trial in London today, accused of a series of assaults against minors.

Harris, 86, is accused of seven counts of indecent assault and one of sexual assault which allegedly took place between 1971 and 2003.

During this period Harris enjoyed celebrity status won through a combination of catchy songs and quick drawings which made for popular children’s television.

The Australian-born entertainer will appear via video link at the London trial, which is expected to last up to five weeks, with the jury being sworn in tomorrow.

Harris’ fall from national treasure to the courtroom has already seen him stripped of honours in Australia and Britain, where Queen Elizabeth II ordered the removal of his CBE (Commander of the British Empire) – an honour one step below a knighthood.

He had reached such celebrity heights that he painted an 80th birthday portrait of the queen in 2005 and seven years later was invited to take part in her diamond jubilee celebrations.

Television career 

Harris had moved to Britain decades earlier in 1952, enrolling in a London art school where he met Alwen Hughes whom he wed in 1958.

Fame came in the 1960s when he secured his own television show after landing work at the BBC.

Harris scored a top hit with the 1969 track “Two Little Boys”, about two youngsters who grow up to fight in a war together, while he also performed his song “Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport” with the Beatles.

Millions tuned in to his television shows to hear him chime, “Can you tell what it is yet?”, as he drew a picture.

He was held in high esteem due to his regular appearance on the BBC and even featured in a child abuse prevention video called “Kids Can Say No” in 1985.

His success continued and in more recent years Harris hosted the BBC’s “Animal Hospital” between 1994 and 2003.

The claims against him stemmed from a police operation launched in the wake of allegations against Jimmy Savile, who died in 2011 and was found to have used his celebrity status to sexually abuse dozens of children.

(c) AFP 2017

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