LONDON (AFP):

Rolf Harris, the veteran Australian artist and entertainer, appeared in a London court on Monday charged with nine counts of indecent assault on two girls aged under 16. The 83-year-old, who has long been a fixture on British television, also faces four counts of making indecent images of children. Accompanied by his wife, Harris spoke only to confirm his name, address and date of birth during the brief appearance at Westminster Magistrates Court.

The entertainer’s lawyer Sonia Woodley indicated to the court that Harris would plead not guilty. Deputy chief magistrate Emma Arbuthnot said: “Clearly my powers are insufficient in this case and this matter will be going to the crown court.” He will next appear at the higher Southwark Crown Court in London on October 7. Harris was released on bail on the condition that he does not contact prosecution witnesses, lives at his home and does not spend time with anyone under the age of 18 without being accompanied by someone over 21. The artist and his wife struggled through a tight scrum of photographers and cameramen as they left court. Harris is one of several older celebrities in Britain arrested under Operation Yewtree, the police probe into historical abuse set up in the wake of revelations that the late BBC star Jimmy Savile was a prolific sex offender. Harris, who moved to England in 1952, has been a popular figure on British television screens for decades. He painted an 80th birthday portrait of Queen Elizabeth II in 2005 and has been honoured by both Britain and Australia.