TV legend Rolf Harris faces sex charges amid BBC scandal

Veteran Australian entertainer Rolf Harris has been charged with sex offense by British police. Wpa Pool / Getty Images

LONDON –- Veteran TV personality Rolf Harris became the highest-profile celebrity to be accused of sex crimes in an investigation centered around Britain's scandal-plagued BBC.

The 83-year-old star, whose singing, TV and artistic career spans almost six decades, was charged with nine counts of indecent assault –- three of which relate to a girl aged 14 –- the U.K.'s Crown Prosecution Service said in a statement on Thursday. He is also accused of four counts of making indecent images of a child, in connection with incidents which allegedly occurred last year.

Rolf Harris talks with Queen Elizabeth II and Kylie Minogue, right, after the Diamond Jubilee Buckingham Palace Concert in June 2012 in London. Wpa Pool / Getty Images

"Having completed our review, we have concluded that there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest for Mr. Harris to be charged with nine counts of indecent assault and four of making indecent images of a child," Alison Saunders, chief Crown prosecutor for London, said in a statement.

"The alleged indecent assaults date from 1980 to 1986 and relate to two complainants aged 14 and 15 at the time of the alleged offending," she added.

Harris joins an ever-increasing list of celebrities formerly employed by the BBC to be accused of sex crimes. 

He was charged by officers working on Scotland Yard's Operation Yewtree inquiry -- which was set up in the wake of a scandal involving another BBC host, Jimmy Savile, to investigate historic claims of sex abuse.

Since Savile's death last year, more than 450 people have told police that they were abused by the BBC star, who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II.

Harris, a fixture on British TV screens for decades, was originally a champion swimmer but forged a successful media career after moving to Britain from Australia in 1952 and regularly hosting shows on the BBC.

Beloved by many, he was awarded a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) in 2006 and was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in Queen’s Elizabeth II's 2012 birthday honors.

He had previously been appointed a Member of the British Empire (MBE) in 1968, which was advanced to Officer (OBE) in 1977. 

Harris also completed an official portrait of the queen in 2005 and sang at the Diamond Jubilee party, celebrating her 60th year on the throne, in 2012.

He will appear at Westminster Magistrates' Court on 23 September 2013.

In June, another veteran of both BBC television and radio, Stuart Hall, admitted 14 counts of indecent assault against girls aged from nine to 17 between 1967 and 1987.

Hall, 83, had also been awarded with an Order of the British Empire by the monarch.

Following a public outcry, three judges later doubled his sentence to 30 months. 

One of Britain's best-known radio DJs, Dave Lee Travis, nicknamed "The Hairy Cornflake" by fans, has also been charged with 12 sexual offenses.