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Ex-BBC Host Harris Used Status to Assault Girls, Prosecutor Says

May 9 (Bloomberg) -- Rolf Harris, an Australian entertainer who lives in the U.K., used his celebrity status to take advantage of underage girls and sexually assault them, prosecutors said as his trial began in London.

“Rolf Harris is an immensely talented person, in art, in music and above all in children’s entertainment,” prosecutor Sasha Wass said today at criminal court. “He took advantage of this fame and popularity to interfere with his victims and to sexually assault them.”

Harris, 84, is charged with 12 counts of indecently assaulting four girls and a woman that were age 7 to 19 at the time, between around 1968 and 1986. The former entertainer has a “dark side” and a “Jekyll and Hyde” nature, Wass said.

Harris is the latest aging celebrity to be tried in the U.K. over sexual-assault allegations. Publicist Max Clifford was found guilty last month of indecent assault charges dating back as far as 40 years, while soap star Bill Roache and former BBC disc jockey Dave Lee Travis were acquitted this year.

Harris was arrested and charged last year by detectives investigating child abuse in the entertainment industry. The investigations began in 2012 with accusations against the late BBC television star Jimmy Savile, which triggered a scandal at the world’s largest public broadcaster.

Harris, who has been honored three times by the queen, was the host of U.K. television programs including “Animal Hospital” on the BBC in the 1990s and wrote songs such as “Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrea Gerlin in London at agerlin@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net Lindsay Fortado, Peter Chapman

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