John Leslie: Former Blue Peter presenter cleared of sexual assault

Scottish broadcaster found not guilty of allegedly grabbing woman’s breasts at party in 2008

Andy Gregory
Monday 19 October 2020 19:21
John Leslie arrives at Southwark Crown Court

Former Blue Peter presenter John Leslie has been cleared of sexual assault charges by a jury.

The Scottish broadcaster had been on trial for a week at Southwark Crown Court for allegedly grabbing a woman’s breasts after shaking hands with her at a Christmas party in 2008.

The 55-year-old, whose full name is John Leslie Stott, was found not guilty on Monday, after just 23 minutes of deliberation by the jury of nine men and three women.

Mr Leslie became tearful and rubbed his eyes before nodding in thanks towards the jury after the verdict was given.

He had strenuously rejected the charges as “ludicrous” and said he had “never crossed” the line between “gregarious” and criminal behaviour.

He told the court he had felt “paranoid” and “scarred” ever since having charges of indecent assault dropped against him in 2003, and would have felt so at the Soho party five years later – which he has said he is unable to remember attending.

Describing himself as a “wounded animal” and “still scarred”, Mr Leslie had said: “It's 17 years. It just is relentless. They are not stopping, the tabloid press. This is what they did. I’m not recovered, I’m not better. I’m not the person I used to be. I’m not a recluse, I grant you.”

Mr Leslie said his life changed completely in 2002 when he was wrongly identified on live television as the unnamed alleged rapist in his former girlfriend Ulrika Jonsson’s autobiography.

Presenter Matthew Wright later apologised, saying he named him in error, while Ms Jonsson has never made any complaint to police, the jury heard.

He said that following the allegations, the tabloids were “gunning for me” having “decided I was their man”, and had run “adverts for women to come forward with allegations”.

In 2003, two charges of indecent assault against him made by one woman were dropped, and not guilty verdicts recorded at the same London court where he faced trial last week.

After Monday's verdict, Judge Deborah Taylor said: “Mr Stott, you for the second time leave this court without a stain on your character and I hope it will be the last time you have to attend.”

Friends and former Blue Peter colleagues Anthea Turner, Diane Louise Jordan, Yvette Fielding and ex-This Morning co-host Fern Britton, all gave character references in support of him during the trial.

Turner said he was “absolutely adored” by women who worked with him and “incredibly respectful”, while Britton said the allegation did not “sound like the man that I know in the slightest”.

His father Les Stott attended every day of the trial, and the men hugged after he left the dock.

Additional reporting by PA