Updated: 05/17/2014 00:50 | By Agence France-Presse

Australian TV star jailed six years for abusing girls

Actor Robert Hughes, star of popular 80s Australian sitcom "Hey Dad!", was Friday jailed for at least six years for sexually and indecently assaulting young girls, behaviour the judge described as predatory.

Australian TV star jailed six years for abusing girls

Sydney skyline as seen from Sydney's harbour on May 2, 2013 - by Saeed Khan

Hughes, 65, had pleaded not guilty to the charges relating to incidents which occurred between 1985 and 1990 with four girls and his lawyer said he would appeal his conviction and sentence.

The Sydney District Court was packed for the sentencing on 10 charges, including two counts of sexual intercourse without consent.

Judge Peter Zahra said the charges -- which also included indecent assault and one act of indecency -- "represented a systematic pattern of sexual abuse of vulnerable young girls".

He said Hughes' conduct was "persistent" and "calculated".

"He abused his position of trust and exploited the naivety and youth of the children involved," Zahra said in a statement.

The court had heard that Hughes had crept into the bedroom of one teen while at a dinner at her parents' house and sexually assaulted her; in another instance he forced a girl, then aged between 6 and 8, to touch him while she was staying at his Sydney home.

One girl regularly spent time at Hughes' home on sleepovers with his daughter, with the actor engaging in a range of sexual misconduct towards her, the judge said.

"The offending was part of a pattern of predatory behaviour towards the victim when the victim was in the offender's care," Zahra said in his judgement.

In victim impact statements, one woman, now aged 37, said she would never have children because of her exposure to Hughes and now hated the word "dad".

Another said she wished Hughes, the star of the popular sitcom about an architect father bringing up his three children after the death of his wife, "nothing but misery".

"I never thought I'd see this day. For 26 years I've tried to deal with the fact that this just happened. Maybe now I can try to piece my life together again, to not feel ashamed or dirty," she said.

Hughes' lawyer Greg Walsh said the maximum sentence of 10 years and nine months, with a non-parole period of six years, was devastating.

"My reaction is that it's a very severe sentence. It's still a bit of a shock at this stage," he told reporters. "I think you would describe it as a crushing sentence."

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation said when the verdicts were read out, Hughes stood up and yelled: "I am innocent."

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