Prosecutor points to Harris' convictions but defence says complainants lying

Rolf Harris listened to the evidence against him on headphones. Photo / File
Rolf Harris listened to the evidence against him on headphones. Photo / File

A London jury has retired to consider their verdicts in the trial of entertainer Rolf Harris on charges of groping girls and women.

The 86-year-old is being tried on six counts of indecent assault and one of sexual assault dating between 1971 and 2004 when the complainants were aged between 12 and 42.

In London's Southwark Crown Court yesterday the jury of seven women and five men retired to deliberate after hearing the case summed up by Judge Alistair McCreath.

Harris, wearing a dark suit and tie, watched proceedings from a glass booth, listening through court earphones.

He is serving jail time after a 2014 trial in which he was convicted on 12 counts of indecently assaulting four girls.

Prosecuting lawyer Jonathan Rees has argued that the entertainer's previous convictions showed he had a propensity to indecently assault girls and young women when other people were nearby.

But defence lawyer Stephen Vullo has accused complainants of lying and fabricating their claims that Harris groped them, inferring they did so in hopes of gaining financial compensation.

He said the "blaze of media" surrounding Harris' first trial had made him "vulnerable to people making accusations against him".

"It's difficult to imagine a harder or faster or deeper fall from grace than that suffered by Mr Harris," Vullo said.

He said the four complainants in Harris' first trial had said they were not interested in seeking compensation but after the trial they all sought and got it.

"If they are true victims they are perfectly entitled to it," he said.

But Vullo took issue with "tactical advice" given by police to complainants that it would "look bad" if they were seen to be seeking compensation before a trial was over.

He said the jury had a right to know if compensation was being sought otherwise "it skews the playing field". Vullo said the evidence on each count fell "far below" the standard required for convicting, "sometimes by a million miles".

"Enough is enough," he said.

Judge McCreath said complainants were entitled to change their minds about seeking compensation but he told the jury to watch for those "determined to make money out of lying".

The judge said a common theme in the case had been that complainants had not come forward earlier because they thought they would not be believed over a prominent and well-liked man such as Harris.

The defence had led evidence to cast doubt on the guilty verdicts in two of the four cases in Harris' first trial, including the groping of a 15-year-old Australian girl in a London pub.

Judge McCreath told the jury it was up to them to determine whether that evidence proved "more likely than not" that Harris was not guilty of those offences.

They could then take that into account when determining whether he had a propensity for such offending, he said.

Judge McCreath also told the jury they were entitled to consider how unlikely it would be for different women to make similar allegations against the same man.

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