Ex-DJ first in court in UK trials over showbiz sex abuse

Tue Jan 14, 2014 10:39am EST

* Top radio broadcaster faces 14 sex abuse charges

* Australia's Rolf Harris to plead not guilty on 16 charges

* More victims spoke out after Jimmy Savile revelations

By Belinda Goldsmith

LONDON, Jan 14 (Reuters) - The first in a list of ageing celebrities accused of sexually abusing young fans over many years went on trial on Tuesday in an investigation that has rocked confidence in the BBC, Britain's national broadcaster.

One of Britain's best-known radio DJs in the 1970s and 1980s, the BBC's Dave Lee Travis, who counted Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi among his fans, is facing 14 charges involving 11 women aged from 15 upwards that date from between 1976 and 2008.

UK-based Australian entertainer Rolf Harris was also due in court on Tuesday to enter a plea to 16 offences dating back to the 1980s, one allegedly involving a girl aged seven or eight.

The charges stem from a police investigation launched after the 2011 death of one of the BBC's top TV presenters, Jimmy Savile, who turned out to have been a prolific sex predator over six decades.

There are now several investigations into Savile's case with victims mulling compensation and calling for a single judge-led inquiry into how the DJ was able to evade justice for so long.

The BBC has ordered an independent review into revelations that Savile abused hundreds of children in hospitals and on BBC premises. The report is due within weeks.

To date, police have arrested 16 former celebrities and show business figures, laying charges against four, releasing six on bail and taking no further action against six.

Critics have asked why the BBC and police did not act at the time when victims complained. Some celebrities have voiced concern the investigation has become a "witch-hunt" with innocent people linked to paedophile Savile but never charged.

OPERATION CONTINUING

Child welfare campaigners said the publicity had encouraged people to speak up. The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) said reports of sex abuse of children aged under 11 rose 16 percent last year.

"This highlights the urgent need to tackle this problem from an early age," said NSPCC Chief Executive Peter Wanless.

Travis, 68, arrived at Southwark Crown Court in London on Tuesday to a waiting scrum of media.

The presenter, who also hosted the TV show "Top of the Pops" in the 1980s, has denied 13 counts of indecent assault and one of sexual assault. His trial is set to last six weeks.

Rolf Harris is due to stand trial in April on 12 charges of indecent assault and four counts of making indecent images of a child . The alleged offences date from 1968 to 2012, with one involving a girl aged seven or eight.

Harris, 83, a family favourite in Australia and Britain for over 50 years, has indicated he will plead not guilty.

The entertainer made his name hosting TV shows and producing chart hits including "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport". A keen artist, he painted Queen Elizabeth's portrait in 2005 and performed at the Queen's 2012 Diamond Jubilee concert.

The inquiry has also led to charges being laid against celebrity publicist Max Clifford who faces trial in March. A former BBC chauffeur who was also charged and due to stand trial committed suicide last October. (Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

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