The Attorney General is to examine whether disgraced former BBC broadcaster Stuart Hall’s 15-month sentence for indecent assault was “unduly lenient”, as politicians and charities said it should be extended.
The 83-year-old former BBC sports presenter was sent to jail on Monday after admitting a series of indecent assaults on girls as young as nine, but may only serve half of his sentence.
Despite initially telling police his victims were all lying as part of a “vendetta going on against people in the public eye,” the former It’s a Knockout host admitted his guilt at Preston Crown Court in April and was jailed on 14 counts of indecent assault.
But MPs and campaigners last night reacted with anger at what they felt was a light sentence. A series of complaints prompted the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, to examine the sentencing and whether it might be referred to the Court of Appeal.
On Monday night, in a letter to Mr Grieve and Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Emily Thornberry, Labour’s shadow Attorney General, said the sentence “surely cannot be strong enough for the seriousness and circumstances of the crime”.
She added: “15 months is not just a lenient sentence, it is unduly lenient. I urge you to use your power to refer unduly lenient sentences to the Court of Appeal and argue for it to be extended.”
Harriet Harman, the shadow Deputy Prime Minister, wrote on Twitter: “18 years offending and Stuart Hall gets less than 18 months. Unduly lenient sentence Attorney General must refer sentence to Court of Appeal.”
The shadow Home Office minister for Crime and Security, Diana Johnson, added: “Mr Hall is unlikely to be the last high-profile individual to be sentenced for historic offences. As a society we should recognise the courage of the victims who have come forward and look to address the injustice arising from offences that have gone so long without being punished.”
One victim, who was just 13 when Hall sexually assaulted her, said yesterday that she knew of more girls who had not yet spoken out, including one who was just eight when the alleged abuse took place.
During the sentencing, Judge Anthony Russell, QC, said Hall was known to the public for his “genial personality” but that there was “a darker side” to him, which he concealed while “taking advantage” of his celebrity status.
“It is clear from the victim statements that I have seen that your brazen attitude when first charged and the public protests of your innocence have added to the distress of some if not all of your victims,” the judge said.
Hall, of Wilmslow in Cheshire, was described as an “opportunistic predator” who targeted his victims between 1967 and 1987.
At points during the hearing Hall, wearing a dark suit, shirt and striped tie, appeared wounded by what he was hearing in evidence. He showed no emotion as he was led from the dock to begin his sentence. Many of his victims were sitting behind him in the public gallery.
After the presenter was charged last December, the publicity surrounding his case led to more women coming forward – including a 22-year-old who said she was raped by Hall in the 1970s.
Following his guilty pleas on 14 counts of indecent assault against 13 victims, the rape charge – which Hall denied – was asked to be left on file after it was given consideration at “the most senior level” of the Crown Prosecution Service and the alleged victim was also consulted and agreed.
One victim, who was interviewed by ITV News, said there were more victims who have not spoken about Hall’s abuse. The victim, Tracy, who said she was just 13 when she was sexually assaulted by the broadcaster while she was drunk and unwell at a family party, said a her friend was just eight when Hall sexually assaulted her.
Hall was given sentences ranging from three months to 15 months, all to run concurrently. Judge Russell said Hall would have received 20 months after a trial but he reduced the sentence to reflect his guilty pleas.
An end to the laughter
For half a century he was a much-loved, light entertainer who could often be found unable to contain his laughter on television. But Stuart Hall was lost for words yesterday as he was led away to start his 15-month sentence.
His career as one of the country’s most prominent figures in British broadcasting ending in disgrace after string of sexual abuses were first revealed last year. The son of a baker, Hall, a Mancunian by birth, first joined the BBC in 1959 as a general reporter and then as a sports reporter.
His big break came in 1972 when he began his decade-long stint as the presenter of It’s a Knockout and its European equivalent, Jeux Sans Frontières, often becoming overwhelmed by laughter at the slapstick antics of the contestants.