LONDON: Australian entertainer Rolf Harris was charged with 13 child sex offences on Thursday, the latest in a series of high-profile celebrities from the 1970 and 1980s to be accused by a major British police investigation into child abuse.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said Harris, 83, would be charged with nine counts of indecent assault related to two girls aged 14 and 15 in the 1980s and four offences of making indecent images of a child last year.
Harris is well known in Australia and Britain as a children’s entertainer with a list of chart hits like “Two Little Boys” and “Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport” and as a player of the didgeridoo and wobble board.
A keen artist, he once painted Queen Elizabeth’s portrait and has been honoured by her for his services to entertainment and charity.
Alison Saunders, chief crown prosecutor for CPS London, said the charges against Harris were part of a police investigation codenamed Operation Yewtree, sparked by revelations that the late BBC TV host Jimmy Savile was a prolific child sex abuser.
“We have determined that there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction and that a prosecution is in the public interest,” Saunders said in a statement.
Six offences of indecent assault related to a girl aged between 15 and 16 from 1980 to 1981 and three offences of indecent assault relate to a girl aged 14 in 1986.
The offences of making indecent images of a child were allegedly committed between March and July last year.
Harris was first interviewed by police last November and arrested in March this year when he was released on bail pending further investigations. He denied all wrongdoing.
He will appear in court in London on September 23.
Since Operation Yewtree was set up, it has developed three strands with one looking at the actions of Savile, a second at allegations against “Savile and others”, and a third related to complaints against other people unconnected to Savile.
The charges against Harris fell into the third category.
The inquiry has led to the arrests of several household names from British TV and radio in the 1970 and 1980s.
Last week, former BBC Radio 1 DJ Dave Lee Travis, 68, appeared in court charged with 12 sex offences alleged to have occurred over a 30-year period involving women and girls, with the youngest aged 15..–REUTERS