A blind, disabled woman felt “utterly trapped” by Rolf Harris as he groped her, a court has heard.
The woman alleges the former TV star and artist assaulted her at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London in 1977.
The woman told the trial “it was like a hawk pouncing on his prey” as Mr Harris spread his hands over her body.
Mr Harris, appearing at Southwark Crown Court via video link from Stafford Jail, denies seven charges of indecent assault and one of sexual assault.
The woman, who has been disabled since birth, was totally blind and had to walk with a stick when the indecent assault allegedly took place.
She was 27 at the time and a jury was told how the incident left her feeling “absolutely invaded”.
In a pre-recorded interview from July 2014, the court heard her recall hearing a door to the hospital room she was in opening and recognising the voice of the TV star, whom she had been expecting to meet.
She said she remembered feeling hot air from Mr Harris’s nostrils and his beard tickling the back of her neck after he approached “from absolutely nowhere”, and could tell he was getting excited as his breathing got heavier, the court heard.
“I have never met anyone who could spread their hands across my body so quickly,” she said.
“They covered all my back really really fast and he got his hands going up both sides of my body and he was saying, ‘Well don’t you like this then?’ and I said ‘No I don’t like it. Nobody has ever touched me like this, get off’.”
He then allegedly replied: “Well you can’t see me.”
The complainant, who has two full-time carers, went on: “What annoyed me was that I just could not escape, and being blind I couldn’t always tell where he was.
“I was completely and utterly trapped.”
The woman said: “One (complainant) later described him as an octopus. I thought ‘that’s exactly what it felt like with his arms and fingers spread as far as he could spread them’.”
The woman said the way he had allegedly taken “advantage” of her was “as degrading as it gets”.
She went on: “No-one has ever behaved like that to me in my life and I want to say even my husband, at his most passionate times, never covered my body in a way that he has done.”
The alleged victim said she repeatedly asked Harris to stop touching her and at one point he replied: “Don’t be like that, I’m only being friendly.”
She then said she grabbed his fingers and bent them back in a bid to stop the entertainer squeezing her breasts.
She said he allegedly responded: “‘I can’t get to you now’.”
The court heard how after the alleged assault, she spent a while with Mr Harris in the room during which he spent a few moments teaching her how to play the didgeridoo he had brought.
Wearing a black suit and black-and-white tie Mr Harris appeared via video link from Stafford Prison where he is serving a sentence for a series of offences of indecent assault carried out on four female victims.
He maintains his innocence, prosecutor Jonathan Rees said, and has pleaded not guilty to a further eight charges.
Stephen Vullo, defending, asked the witness why she had not come forward until the publicity surrounding the first trial emerged.
She said: “I was just so amazed because Rolf Harris was somebody I had grown up with and we loved it. He was part of our culture and I used to love listening to him on the television.”
She said she did not report the incident or call the police that day because she did not think anybody would believe her allegations against “an extremely popular man”.
The defence lawyer asked if she had fabricated her story in the hope of making money.
She replied: “Certainly not sir” and added, “I wouldn’t choose to be here”.
The trial continues.
A press release:
Delta 7 are a seven-piece rock band from Eastbourne, East Sussex, who write and perform all their own material. Band members Mikey, Fraser, Elliot, Harry, David, Craig and Speedy have different personalities, talents and disabilities. But their shared love of performing, positive energy and mutual support allows them to create music that is infectious and inspiring, making Delta 7 an uplifting and powerful voice for everyone who feels a little outside ‘the mainstream’ of society.
Earlier this year, the band inspired Brixton-based young filmmaker Rosie Baldwin to write a documentary script about them, called ‘We Rise’. The script beat stiff competition to win the Picturehouse Members Film Competition. And, as part of the prize, a two-and-a-half-minute short film was professionally shot and produced by London-based advertising agency McCann London and production company Craft London.
Following a positive reception of the film and interest generated in the band including BBC TV news coverage, McCann London has now produced a song recorded with the band during filming. The official track and pop video for the band’s debut single ‘The Jungle’ is released today to raise money for Culture Shift, the charity organisation that brought the band together and which continues to support the band and others with disabilities in the south of England.
Mikey Reynolds who plays keyboards in Delta 7 said: “Delta 7 is very important to us. We have a great time together, we look out for each other, we understand each other. It is great to be part of the band.”
‘We Rise’ premiered at Picturehouse Central on 27th September and has been shown before every full-length feature at all Picturehouse cinemas across the country. It tells the uplifting story of how the seven individuals facing diverse problems in their everyday lives have come together to express themselves and challenge stereotypes through music.
The track and music video can be purchased via all major digital music channels. All profits from every sale will go towards Culture Shift in order to support the ambitions of the band to continue making music and perform more widely. So they can inspire others and speak for everyone in society who understands what it is to feel ‘different’.
Julia Roberts, director of Culture Shift, said: “In a climate of increasing cutbacks, Delta 7 thrives with community support, both in terms of donations from individuals and in-kind offers. The band seems to be answering a need for positivity, inspiration and visibility for marginalised people. Delta 7 embodies community resilience and optimism.”
Mike Oughton, creative director of McCann London added: ““Delta 7 create a brilliantly atmospheric sound that reminds me of post-punk band, The Fall. Their message reminds us all of the value of music as a tool of empowerment. We’re humbled and honoured to be able to help the band and the charity grow further with the release of ‘The Jungle’.”
Watch the music video here: https://youtu.be/-m-EaYeDMqw
Watch the We Rise film here: https://youtu.be/XplawKyv9mc
Premier League clubs are prioritising finance over improving access and should face legal action if they fail to meet the needs of disabled fans, according to a new report.
Several clubs including Liverpool, Chelsea and Watford are likely to miss a deadline on meeting basic standards.
The Culture, Media and Sport select committee says it is unconvinced the league would punish clubs itself.
However, the Premier League says it is “working extremely hard” on access.
In 2015, the league promised to improve stadium facilities for disabled fans, stating that clubs would comply with official guidance by August 2017.
That followed a BBC investigation in 2014 which found that 17 of the 20 clubs in the top flight at that time had failed to provide enough wheelchair spaces.
At the end of January, the Premier League will publish an interim report detailing each club’s progress towards the August accessibility deadline.
The select committee’s report on “Accessibility of Sports Stadia” quotes Premier League executive director Bill Bush as saying top-flight clubs who fail to comply could be punished.
He said the Premier League board can impose fines of up to £25,000, while cases of serious breaches would be referred to an independent panel – which could impose heavier fines or even deduct points.
But the report added that it was “not convinced” of the Premier League’s willingness to sanction its clubs after “20 years of comparative inactivity”.
What does the committee say?
Committee chairman Damian Collins MP said: “It is especially disappointing that some of the rich clubs are not doing more.
“Sports fans with disabilities are not asking for a large number of expensive changes, only to have their needs taken into account in the way sports stadia are designed and operated.
“The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has told us that it is minded to start legal proceedings against clubs that continue to flout the law. We support them in this.”
Meanwhile, the report says that Championship club Derby County and non-league sides Tranmere Rovers, Wrexham and Egham Town were “exemplars of best practice”.
What does the Premier League say?
A statement read: “The scale and scope of the commitment made by clubs in this area is unprecedented for a single sport or sector, and the timescale is ambitious.
“At some grounds, particularly older ones, there are challenging built environment issues and, given that stadiums are in use throughout the football season, there is a limited period in which significant structural work can be done.
“For the clubs which are working through those challenges, cost is not the determining factor.”
What do the clubs say?
Watford have already indicated they will fail to fulfil the pledge on wheelchair spaces, indicating in a club statement that “all known demand from disabled supporters has been met”.
The Hornets statement explained that if the extra 61 wheelchair spaces required under the league’s guidelines are provided at Vicarage Road, “700 able-bodied supporters would be displaced from cherished seats that they may have occupied for many years. If these supporters subsequently see that these positions are not appropriately occupied due to lack of demand, they will be at best disgruntled and at worst antagonistic.”
Liverpool and Chelsea have not made any official comment.
Liverpool are understood to be exploring options as part of redevelopment work at Anfield to meet requirements for disabled access, while Chelsea have plans to demolish their Stamford Bridge home and rebuild.
A disabled benefit claimant is set to take the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to court over its refusal to allow him to communicate with its civil servants via email.
Mark Lucas is facing a reassessment of his personal independence payment (PIP) claim next month, but is refusing to return his claim form by post because he does not think a paper-based system is secure.
He has asked DWP to allow him to communicate via email as a reasonable adjustment under the Equality Act, but says he was told this was not possible.
Now he expects to lose his PIP next month – he currently receives the standard rate of the daily living component – because of his refusal to submit a written claim form.
He has secured legal aid and a lawyer to fight his case and seek damages for disability discrimination.
Lucas, from Staffordshire, told Disability News…
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