Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 2 October 2014

Stuart Hall's sentence is doubled

Stuart Hall's sentence has been doubled

Stuart Hall has been ordered to serve double his jail sentence for sex offences against children by judges who criticised his public denials of his victims' claims when he knew he was guilty.

The 83-year-old former It's A Knockout presenter, who admitted offences of indecent assault relating to 13 victims after initially declaring his innocence, watched via video link from Preston prison as Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge announced that a term of 15 months imposed last month was "inadequate".

Increasing the sentence to 30 months at the Court of Appeal in London, Lord Judge said the court regarded his original denials - describing the claims against him as "cruel, pernicious and spurious" in a statement made from the steps of a court - as a "seriously aggravating" feature in the case.

In a lengthy ruling, Lord Judge said that when broadcaster Hall attacked his victims' claims, he knew the truth and, as an expert in the use of the media, was fully alert to the possible advantages of manipulating it.

At that point, hoping to escape justice and attempting to use the media to possibly influence potential jurors, he "traduced" 13 adult women who had been sexually assaulted by him.

Lord Judge said: "He did plead guilty but not before he had publicly and deliberately attacked the victims."

Hall, from Wilmslow, Cheshire, who admitted 14 counts of indecent assault against girls aged between nine and 17 over a period of almost 20 years, showed no reaction as the decision to increase his "unduly lenient" sentence was announced by Lord Judge, sitting with Lady Justice Rafferty and Mrs Justice Macur.

The case was referred to the court by Attorney General Dominic Grieve, who argued that Hall's sentence failed to adequately reflect the gravity of his offending and the public concern about such crimes.

Hall was sentenced to the 15 months at Preston Crown Court by the Recorder of Preston, Judge Anthony Russell QC.

Lord Judge - who said Hall "got away with it" for decades and had "lived a lie for more than half of his life" - concluded at the end of today's hearing: "Making every allowance that can reasonably be made, this sentence was inadequate."

After the announcement, Mr Grieve said: "I asked the court to consider the multiple offending by Stuart Hall over a prolonged period of time which involved numerous victims.

"I also asked that the court take into account the breaches of trust in this case - Hall carried out some of these offences in places where the victims were entitled to feel safe, he used his celebrity status to invite them to attend the BBC, and he also displayed an element of planning and premeditation.

"I am pleased that the court found that 15 months was unduly lenient and have today increased that sentence to 30 months and I hope that this case has highlighted the fact that historical sexual offences are always taken very seriously and show that the law still applies, whoever the offender may be."

Hall directly exploited his role as a popular BBC presenter to target four of his victims, while he assaulted another four on the pretence of giving elocution lessons to them at his home.

His counsel, Crispin Aylett QC, told the appeal judges that the original sentence was "entirely appropriate" and, if it was merciful, that was because Hall pleaded guilty at an early stage of the proceedings, was 83 and his last offence was committed 27 years ago.

The QC said: "This court should not interfere with the sentence passed. If the object was to see this man punished, disgraced and financially ruined, well, all of that has been more than achieved."

Lord Judge said: "We have to record that the successful career hardly provides mitigation at all - on the contrary, it was the career that put him in a position of trust that he was then able to exploit."

It contributed to his image as a cheerful, fun-loving, "fundamentally decent man" and to the view that he could be trusted, or if he could not be trusted, "that effectively he was untouchable".

The judge said that, to his victims, Hall must have seemed a "figure of power and authority and influence".

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