Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Stuart Hall admits child sex abuse

Stuart Hall has admitted indecently assaulting 13 girls, the youngest aged nine

Veteran BBC broadcaster Stuart Hall has been branded a child abuse "predator" after he admitted indecently assaulting 13 girls, the youngest aged just nine.

Hall, 83, who had previously issued an impassioned denial, entered the guilty pleas last month at Preston Crown Court but they can only now be disclosed after reporting restrictions were lifted.

Outside court, the former It's a Knockout presenter appeared a broken man, having heard his lawyer Crispin Aylett QC tell the court "he is only too aware his disgrace is complete". It was a stark contrast with a previous appearance, when he insisted on the court steps that the allegations were "pernicious, callous, cruel and above all spurious".

Hall was described on Thursday as an "opportunistic predator" by Nazir Afzal, chief crown prosecutor for the North West, who said outside court: "His victims did not know each other and almost two decades separated the first and last assaults, but almost all of the victims, including one who was only nine at the time of the assault, provided strikingly similar accounts. Whether in public or private, Hall would first approach under friendly pretences and then bide his time until the victim was isolated. He can only be described as an opportunistic predator."

At the previous hearing on April 16, Hall calmly and repeatedly answered "guilty" when the charges were put to him. He stood in the dock as he uttered the single damning word which has now ruined his reputation.

A brief outline of the abuse suffered by three victims was outlined at an earlier hearing at Preston Magistrates' Court. In the 1980s Hall molested a nine-year-old girl by putting his hand up her clothing. He also kissed a 13-year-old girl on the lips after he said to her: "People need to show thanks in other ways." Hall was charged with those offences when he was arrested by Lancashire police on December 5.

Police have confirmed that publicity surrounding his initial arrest led to more victims coming forward. He was subsequently charged with abusing 10 more girls and the rape of a 22-year-old woman, between 1968 and 1986.

An order was also lifted so that the earlier pleas could be reported. It had been put in place to avoid prejudicing a possible future trial on a count of rape and three separate counts of indecent assault which Hall had denied last month. Peter Wright QC, prosecuting, said the Crown was satisfied the rape count could lie on file after it was given consideration at "the most senior level" and the alleged victim was consulted. The three other charges were merged with a count he has admitted involving one victim.

Hall did not comment as he left court, saying only to waiting reporters that he had a "heavy cold". He was surrounded by a media scrum as he was led into a waiting taxi. Mr Aylett said he proposed to present a "full mitigation in due course" but said his client's guilty pleas were the best possible mitigation.

Recorder of Preston Judge Anthony Russell QC granted bail until his sentencing on June 17. As he ordered pre-sentence reports from the Probation Service, the judge told Hall: "You must understand I have not made up my mind and that all sentencing options including immediate custody are open. I genuinely have not made up my mind."

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