LONDON (AFP) ― Rolf Harris, the veteran Australian artist and entertainer, arrived at a British court on Tuesday ahead of his trial for a string of alleged indecent assaults.
The 84-year-old, who moved to England in 1952 and has been a fixture on British television screens for decades, arrived at Southwark Crown Court in London with his wife Alwen.
Harris is accused of 12 counts of indecent assault against four girls, the youngest of whom was aged 7 or 8 and the oldest 19, between 1968 and 1986. He denies the charges.
Harris watched from the dock as an initial panel of 17 possible jurors was chosen. They were told they were likely to be called back on Thursday.
The prosecution will open its case after the jury of 12 has been finalized.
The trial is expected to last at least seven weeks.
Judge Nigel Sweeney said that the evidence included events in Australia and New Zealand.
He told the jury pool: “You have been summoned to this court to take part as potential jurors in the selection of the jury panel from which, hopefully in the next day or two, the jury will be chosen to try the defendant, Rolf Harris.
”The defendant is charged with a number of offenses of indecent assault.
“The evidence overall includes events in Australia and New Zealand.”
Potential jurors were asked to declare if they had any connection with the case or had any family or close friends living in Australia and New Zealand.
Harris is well-known as a painter, entertainer and television presenter in both Britain and his homeland.
He painted an 80th birthday portrait of Queen Elizabeth II in 2005, took part in her diamond jubilee celebrations in 2012, and has been honored by both Britain and Australia.
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.”
Sweeney told the potential jurors that they must not start trying to research the case, “let alone try to contact anyone involved in the case in any capacity.”
“Jurors who end up trying this case must do so impartially and based only on the evidence given in court during the trial and on absolutely nothing else,” he said.