John Leslie: I will clear my name of sex charges

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The Independent Online

The television presenter John Leslie made an impass-ioned vow to prove his innocence after he was charged with two counts of indecent assault yesterday.

Mr Leslie, 38, who was sacked as the co-presenter of GMTV's This Morning last year when Scotland Yard detectives began inquiries into a series of allegations against him, was formally charged with the offences at Forest Gate police station in east London.

He was accused under the Sexual Offences Act of two counts of indecent assault against the same woman between 25 May and 28 May 1997. He was bailed to appear at Bow Street magistrates' court on 2 July under his real name of John Leslie Stott.

In an emotional address outside the police station, Mr Leslie, who lives in west London, described his plight as an "ongoing nightmare" and told reporters: "There is absolutely no truth in the charge made against me - now I will have the chance to show my innocence in a court of law to a jury of my peers." He continued: "Such has been the speculation and endless rumour-mongering that I never believed I would be able to clear my name and reputation without going through the due court process."

Mr Leslie said he "eagerly awaited" his trial to confirm his innocence and paid tribute to the support of his family and his girlfriend, Abby Titmuss. The publicity had been particularly difficult for his mother.

Mr Leslie's lawyer, Paul Gilbert, said: "After all the allegations that have been levelled at my client, he has now been charged with two counts of indecent assault against one victim. These charges are at the lower end of the scale. John has categorically denied these allegations and this he has made clear to the police."

Mr Leslie, a former Blue Peter presenter, was arrested on 5 December last year by detectives investigating the alleged rape of a 30-year-old woman at a party in south-west London in 1998 and alleged indecent assaults against two other women. The rape allegation was not pursued.

The women came forward after Mr Leslie's name was inadvertently linked in the media to a claim by the television presenter Ulrika Jonsson that she had been raped when she was 19. She made the claim in her autobiography, which was published last year, saying she had met the man through her television work in the late 1980s. Ms Jonsson has never named the man involved or made a complaint to police. She was not interviewed in the investigation.

The results of the investigation by Scotland Yard's special inquiry team, which also handled the case of the Royal butler Paul Burrell, were submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service in January. The CPS gave the police the results of its consideration on Monday.

A Scotland Yard spokesman said: "We received advice from the CPS in connection with this inquiry on Monday.

"John Leslie's solicitors were contacted by our officers that afternoon and told of the advice and the decision to charge. It was agreed that John Leslie would attend a police station today where he would be formally charged."

Mr Leslie was reported to have signed a £500,000 deal with Express Newspapers to tell his story.

HIS STATEMENT

"There is absolutely no truth in the charge made against me. Now I will have the chance to show my innocence in a court of law to a jury of my peers. Such has been the speculation and endless rumour-mongering that I never believed I would be able to clear my name and reputation without going through the due court process. To that extent, I eagerly await my trial to confirm my innocence and to reclaim my life. Over the last nine months I have been asked to remain silent by the police and not to answer my accusers in the press in order that they could conclude their investigation quickly and without additional prejudice. I can't tell you how difficult it was to remain silent with such accusations facing me. To be accused of such a crime when you are innocent is a heavy burden for any man to carry. But if you're in the media spotlight, it's a particularly cruel experience ... This ordeal has been made all the more difficult because of how much it has upset my family, particularly my mother. Without their love, my girlfriend, Abby, the tremendous loyalty of my friends and supporters, this ongoing nightmare would have been unbearable."