On 17th March 2016 Rolf Harris, the 85 year old Australian artist and entertainer appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court and pleaded not guilty to 8 sexual offences. 7 are of indecent assault (contrary to s14 Sexual Offences Act 1956) and 1 of sexual assault (contrary to s3 Sexual Offences Act 2003).
Although there are 8 offences, they relate to 7 different complainants. These date back to 1971 and the complainants were aged between 12 and 27.
There are actually 7 offences – the reason for the ‘extra’ charge is (we would imagine) that the most recent complaint happened sometime around 1st May 2004 which is when the 1956 Act was repealed and replaced with the 2003 Act.
When the law changed, there was a complete disaster when there weren’t ‘transitional provisions’ to deal with the position where a jury could not be sure whether the alleged offence occurred before or after that date (see here for an explanation).
Mr Harris will appear at Southwark Crown Court on 14th April. Obviously, at this stage, we are limited in what we can say.
We have a fact sheet on some of the issues that historic sexual offences raise.