x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Entertainer Rolf Harris charged with sex assaults in UK

The veteran Australian artist and entertainer has been charged with nine counts of indecent assault on two girls aged under 16.

LONDON // Rolf Harris, the veteran Australian artist and entertainer, has been charged with nine counts of indecent assault on two girls aged under 16, prosecutors in Britain said Thursday.

The 83-year-old, who has long been a fixture on British TV, has also been charged with four counts of making indecent images of children.

Harris is one of several older celebrities in Britain arrested under Operation Yewtree, the police probe into historical abuse set up in the wake of revelations that the late BBC star Jimmy Savile was a prolific sex offender.

Harris, who moved to England in 1952, has been a popular figure on British television screens for decades.

He painted an 80th birthday portrait of Queen Elizabeth II in 2005, took part in her diamond jubilee celebrations last year, and has been honoured by both Britain and Australia.

The presenter and musician is due to appear in a London court on September 23.

Alison Saunders of England's state Crown Prosecution Service said: "We have concluded that there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest for Mr Harris to be charged with nine counts of indecent assault and four of making indecent images of a child."

Harris was charged with six counts of indecent assault relating to a girl aged between 15 and 16 for incidents dating from April 1980 to April 1981, and three relating to a girl aged 14 from April and June 1986.

He was further charged with four counts of making indecent images of children, on or before dates spanning between March and July 2012.

Saunders stressed that Harris had the right to a fair trial.

As a singer, he topped the Australian charts in 1960 with "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport" and the British charts in 1969 with "Two Little Boys".

His trademark sound is the wobble board, which he accidentally invented by shaking a painting board.

Some 14 people have been arrested under Operation Yewtree, four of whom have now been charged, including broadcaster Dave Lee Travis.

The charges against Harris and Travis are not connected to Savile, who police believe was one of Britain's worst-ever sex offenders.