The former It’s a Knockout presenter Stuart Hall is facing prison after be admitted a catalogue of sex abuse allegations dating back nearly 50 years.
The veteran broadcaster was described by prosecutors as an “opportunistic predator” whose 13 victims included a nine-year-old girl who he sexually assaulted in her bedroom whilst attending a dinner party at her parents’ house.
Another victim, then aged 17, described how she was pushed up against a wall and attacked after auditioning as a cheerleader during filming of the long-running TV competition.
The investigation by Lancashire Police began after a woman contacted Independent columnist Yasmin Alabhai-Brown in the wake of the Jimmy Savile abuse scandal. The woman described how she was invited to the BBC studios in Manchester after meeting Hall at a school prize giving and later abused.
Ten victims subsequently came forward following the initial publicity surrounding the case. Today Hall, aged 83, admitted 14 counts of sexual assault which ranged from kissing to the digital penetration of his 13 predominantly teenage victims.
A further charge of rape and three other counts of sexual assault were allowed to lay on file with the agreement of the complainants. The BBC, where Hall was still working as a freelance match summariser on Radio 5 Live until his arrest last year, described his crimes as “disgraceful” and said he would no longer appear on air for the corporation.
Hall’s barrister Crispin Aylett QC told a brief hearing at Preston Crown Court that his client was “only too aware that his disgrace is complete.” Hall will be sentenced in June after being released on bail and faces a maximum prison sentence of up to 10 years. He was told he must not have unsupervised access to children and will be required to sign the Sex Offenders Register.
Prosecutors praised the women – none of whom knew each other - for coming forward.
Nazir Afzal, Chief Crown Prosecutor in the North West, said victims of abuse should not be denied justice by the passage of time. He said all had provided “strikingly similar” accounts of their ordeal.
“Whether in private or public, 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,” said Mr Afzal.
Detective chief inspector Neil Esseen, of Lancashire Police’s major investigation team, said the guilty pleas had allowed the victims to be spared the ordeal of giving evidence at trial.
“The fact that these convictions have come a long time after they were committed shows that we will always take any allegations of sexual abuse extremely seriously and will investigate them thoroughly no matter how long ago they happened,” he said.
A statement issued through his solicitors said: “Mr Hall deeply and sincerely regrets his actions. He wishes to issue an unreserved apology to the individuals concerned. He now accepts his behaviour and actions were completely wrong and he is very remorseful.”
His barrister said Hall was of otherwise “exemplary character” and that his client had ”desisted“ in each instance of abuse when met with the ”merest suggestion of discouragement“.
But child protection campaigners welcomed the outcome of the hearing.
Jon Brown, head of the NSPCC's sexual abuse programme, said: ”These guilty pleas will hopefully encourage more victims of sexual abuse to come forward so they can finally get the justice they deserve. Even where allegations relate to the distant past they should be thoroughly investigated.”