18 Jun 2014

Harris jury told to avoid speculation

9:54 am on 18 June 2014

The jury in the Rolf Harris trial has been asked to calmly consider the evidence in the case and then have the courage to deliver true verdicts "whatever the consequences".

Rolf Harris denies indecent assault charges.

Rolf Harris denies indecent assault charges. Photo: AFP

Justice Nigel Sweeney began summing up the child sex abuse case at Southwark Crown Court in London on Tuesday. It was expected he would conclude his summary on Wednesday before sending the jury out.

Harris denies 12 charges of indecent assault against four girls in the UK between 1968 and 1986. Another six women have given supporting evidence that the veteran Australian artist abused them in Australia, New Zealand and Malta. AAP reports.

Justice Sweeney warned jurors not to let media reports of the high-profile trial influence their deliberations and asked them to guard against "speculation or emotion".

"What is required of you is a cool, calm, careful and dispassionate consideration of the evidence, together with the courage to return true verdicts based on the evidence, whatever the consequences may be," he said.

He told jurors they should use their common sense "to recognise a red herring when you see one and ignore it".

The six men and six women on the jury were instructed not to discriminate against Harris because he'd gone to the witness box from the dock.

There was no onus on the 84-year-old defendant to prove his innocence, the judge said. Rather, for the jury to convict Harris on the indecent assault charges, "the prosecution must make you feel sure of guilt". There needed to be "proof of guilt beyond reasonable doubt".

The judge said the prosecution had argued the alleged assaults were "tellingly similar" which meant there was a compelling case the complainants were telling the truth.

He noted the prosecution had suggested there was no reason why any, let alone so many, women would lie.

The defence, on the other hand, relied strongly on Harris's good character to assert he didn't commit any of the offences, Justice Sweeney said.

He noted "good character is not a defence as such" but jurors could take it into account when deciding if they believed the performer's evidence.

Further "the fact he has not offended in the past may make it less likely that he acted as is now alleged against him".

Justice Sweeney said the evidence of the four main complainants and six supporting witnesses could be used to support each of the 12 separate charges.

"The closer the similarities between the complainants, the less likely it is they can be explained away as coincidental lies," he said.

The prosecution argues 10 women have given "chillingly similar accounts" including the fact Harris initially approached them with a friendly gesture.

But Justice Sweeney noted the defence dismissed that suggestion. It argues Harris is "a natural hugger and that left him open to false accusations".

Harris claims three of the complainants are lying but the fourth may have simply mistaken someone else for him.