Wednesday 18 October 2017

BBC star Hall jailed over sex assaults on young girls

Kim Pilling and Paul Keaveny

Veteran BBC broadcaster Stuart Hall has been jailed for 15 months after he admitted 14 counts of indecent assault against girls as young as nine.

Hall (83) had initially issued an impassioned public denial of any wrongdoing before he finally admitted his guilt at Preston Crown Court in April.

The disgraced former 'It's A Knockout' presenter was labelled an "opportunistic predator" of his victims, who he targeted between 1967 and 1987.

Sentencing him, Judge Anthony Russell said Hall was known to the public for his "genial personality" but there was "a darker side" to him.

He said "those who admired you for these qualities and the general public now know that there is a darker side to you, one hidden from the public view until now – and a side which you were able to conceal, taking advantage of your status as a well-liked celebrity.

"Several of these cases reveal an abuse of power by you because your status gave you an influence and standing which you abused."

The judge criticised Hall for his initial public denial of wrongdoing. "Instead of maintaining a dignified silence or stating that you would make no comment, you chose to make a public statement to the effect that the allegations were false.

"Although your guilty pleas have meant that your victims have not had to give evidence and relive their experiences in court, your earlier observations about their complaints, which you now accept were neither spurious nor pernicious, will have distressed them all."

When initially arrested last December, Hall told police his victims were all lying as part of a "vendetta going on against people in the public eye". But the publicity led to more women coming forward.

At points during the hearing, Hall appeared wounded by what he was hearing in evidence. For long periods of time he was leaning back with his eyes closed. On hearing something that appeared to shock him he would lean forward and shake his head. Many of Hall's victims were sitting behind him in the public gallery.

Hall wore headphones around his neck but only put them on his head when his defence barrister Crispin Aylett outlined the mitigation on his behalf.

SAVILE

Mr Aylett criticised some media reports about the case since Hall pleaded guilty and asked the judge to carry out the sentencing with a degree of proportion. "My task is to apologise for what the defendant has done and to ask for the mercy of the court."

Mr Aylett said his client had been arrested "as a consequence" of the investigations into Jimmy Savile, "who used young girls on a scale that is simply staggering". He referred to the 1,300 complainants in that case and said: "Instead, in the dock today is a frightened and bewildered 83-year-old man answering for the touching – no more, no less – of all of 13, not 1,300, victims over a quarter of a century ago."

The BBC said in a statement after sentencing: "The BBC is appalled that some of Stuart Hall's crimes took place in connection with his work at the BBC and offer an unreserved apology to the people he abused."

Irish Independent

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