Jury selected in Rolf Harris trial

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Australian artist and television personality Rolf Harris is on trial for indecently assaulting seven women and girls. Picture: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Ellen Whinnett in LondonNews Corp Australia Network

A JURY has been selected in the trial of legendary Australian entertainer Rolf Harris, who has pleaded not guilty to charges of indecently assaulting seven girls and women.

Harris, 86, appeared in the Southwark Crown Court today by video-link as his trial, which is expected to last around six weeks, got underway in London.

A jury of seven women and five men, with three reserves, was selected, but not sworn in.

The swearing-in will take place on Wednesday, after final legal discussions between the prosecution and defence.

People queue to enter Southwark Crown Court for the Rolf Harris trial in London. Picture: AP/Frank Augstein

People queue to enter Southwark Crown Court for the Rolf Harris trial in London. Picture: AP/Frank AugsteinSource:AP

In a first for the English legal system, he has been excused from appearing in person at the trial because of his age and ill health, although Judge Alistair McCreath has previously reserved the right to call him in person if the technology fails.

Justice McCreath told the jurors today that the courts were “waking up to’’ the reality of the digital world.

“We can very happily try Mr Harris without him having to be here,’’ the judge said.

“He is not a young man and it makes a lot of sense for him to attend his trial remotely.”

The court was told the trial would likely run until February 16.

Provisions were being made to ensure that Harris could see the courtroom, and the jury could see him. Other arrangements were made for one witness who would appear from another room in the court building.

A list of 160 potential witnesses was read to the jury.

Rolf Harris appeared in court via video link, due to concerns about his age and reported ill health. Picture: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Rolf Harris appeared in court via video link, due to concerns about his age and reported ill health. Picture: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty ImagesSource:Supplied

Harris’ niece Jenny was one of two family members who attended the two-hour court hearing.

Wearing a dark suit and patterned tie, Harris asked several questions of the judge as he was instructed about his appearances before the jury.

The Crown alleges Harris indecently assaulted seven women and girls over a period of about 30 years.

One of his alleged victims was alleged to be less than 13 years of age at the time of the alleged offence.

The allegations relate to incidents which occurred between 1971 and 2004 and one of the offences is alleged to have occurred at the old BBC centre in west London.

Australian-born Harris built a glittering career in the UK, mainly at the BBC, as a singer, comedian, TV host and artist. He entertained several generations of children in a career that spanned five decades.

Rolf Harris, pictured performing after Cyclone Tracy struck Darwin in 1974, has had a career that has spanned five decades. Picture: Supplied

Rolf Harris, pictured performing after Cyclone Tracy struck Darwin in 1974, has had a career that has spanned five decades. Picture: SuppliedSource:News Corp Australia

Justice McCreath warned the jurors about gathering information on the internet, saying any reliance on anything other than was given as evidence in court would lead to a “dysfunctional and corrupt’’ trial.

Harris is facing seven charges of indecent assault, and an eighth charge of sexual assault, which is an alternative charge to one of the counts of indecent assault.

The alternative charge alleges between April 30, 2004 and May 7, 2004, Harris intentionally touched a female. The charge states that: “the touching was sexual, (the complainant) did not consent to it, and Rolf Harris did not reasonably believe that (the complainant) consented.’’

It is further alleged that on July 10, 1971, he indecently assaulted a girl aged under 16 years.

Further, it is alleged that between January 1, 1977 and December 4, 1977, he indecently assaulted a girl under the age of 13 years.

Rolf Harris at the 2008 ARIA Hall of Fame awards in Melbourne. Picture: AAP Image/Joe Castro

Rolf Harris at the 2008 ARIA Hall of Fame awards in Melbourne. Picture: AAP Image/Joe CastroSource:AAP

A further charge alleges he indecently assaulted a female on September 17, 1977.

Between May 31, 1978 and July 10, 1978, he is alleged to have indecently assaulted another female.

On New Year’s Eve 1983 he is alleged to have indecently assaulted a girl under the age of 16 years.

And on June 14, 2002, he is alleged to have indecently assaulted a female.

(Why?)

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