Rolf Harris reputation trashed before verdict

Rolf Harris has had his reputation trashed and been publicly humiliated over an “ill-judged” affair with his daughter’s friend, but there’s no proof of any criminal behaviour, a London court has been told.


Defence barrister Simon Ray on Monday used his closing address to accuse the prosecution of resorting to “name calling” to cover up holes in its case.

Mr Ray told Southwark Crown Court that “making allegations loudly and forcefully does not make them true”.

Prosecutor Sasha Wass QC, he suggested, had “sneered” at problems in the crown’s case which created “unavoidable doubt”.

Listen: SBS presenter Peggy Giakoumelos speaks with reporter Ryan Emery about the final moments in court.

“One thing is certain, Mr Harris’s reputation has effectively been trashed and will never be the same again,” Mr Ray told jurors, adding their own childhood memories may have been altered.

“But after all of that, when you take a step back, have the prosecution come close to satisfying you (of his guilt)?

“You may conclude they have fallen a long way short.”

The main complainant in the case is a childhood friend of Harris’s daughter Bindi who claims the entertainer first abused her in 1978. She was 13 at the time.

But Mr Ray on Monday said the alleged victim made up the story in the mid-1990s when confronted by her parents over her heavy drinking.

It was a desperate attempt to excuse the sad state of her life, the barrister said.

The complainant’s brother in May told the court that when he confronted Harris in the mid-1990s the Australian replied: “It takes two to tango”.

Mr Ray admitted that would be an extraordinary thing to say if talking about child abuse.

However, it made sense if Harris was referring to a consenting adult relationship that started when Bindi’s friend was 18.

A 1997 letter the artist wrote to the alleged victim’s father could also be consistent with that version of events.

Ms Wass last week said it was effectively a confession of child abuse but Mr Ray argued it was more a confession of a “regrettable and ill-judged affair”.

He asked why, if Bindi’s friend was so terrified of Harris, she continued to see him into her late 20s.

“A residual sense of shame and embarrassment … doesn’t equal guilt”.

The prosecution argues she was groomed and psychologically dominated so that she performed “like a prostitute”.

But Mr Ray said there was no evidence to support that theory.

Rather, he argued, the pair had “a sporadic, illicit, somewhat low-rent adult relationship that ended in embarrassment” but didn’t involve criminal behaviour.

“A residual sense of shame and embarrassment … doesn’t equal guilt”.

Harris admitted to a second affair during the trial with Mr Ray on Monday stating: “He has been punished for his infidelity by, effectively, public humiliation.”

The defence barrister said it was “incredible” to suggest Harris assaulted the main complainant while Bindi slept in the same room unaware.

If his daughter did see something it was “unthinkable” she’d now support her famous father.

Mr Ray said it was a “cheap shot” for the prosecution to make public a mid-2012 email that Bindi sent to Harris asking if she was the sole inheritor of his STG11 million ($A20 million) estate.

“Whatever happens in this court case is not going to prevent Bindi getting her inheritance,” the barrister said.

Mr Ray argued a second complainant, Australian woman Tonya Lee, appeared to enjoy the fame she’d acquired by selling her story to Woman’s Day and A Current Affair.

He told the court she was untruthful as revealed by “the ease with which she has lied in the past … well and convincingly”.

During the trial Harris said he’d never been to Cambridge – where a third complainant says she was assaulted in the 1970s – until three or four years ago.

But video subsequently emerged of him participating in Star Games which was filmed in the university city in 1978.

Ms Wass accused Harris of lying but Mr Ray said if the Australian had any recollection of the event he wouldn’t have issued a blanket denial.

“No defendant would be that stupid,” Mr Ray told the jury.

“Mr Harris didn’t lie, he forgot.”

The fourth and final complainant says she was groped as a seven or eight year old at a community centre near Portsmouth in the late 1960s.

But Mr Ray said she may have seen someone else performing one of Harris’s songs and thought it was the singer himself.

“She could honestly believe what she’s saying but still be wrong.”

Justice Nigel Sweeney will sum up the case on Tuesday with the jury then “almost undoubtedly” retiring on Wednesday to consider its verdict.