Veteran BBC presenter Stuart Hall admits sex offences
Popular TV and radio commentator, awarded with OBE, pleads guilty to indecently assaulting young girls, with youngest victim aged only nine
Veteran BBC broadcaster Stuart Hall pleaded guilty to sex offences yesterday, the latest British TV star from the 1970s and 1980s to be embroiled in abuse allegations.
Hall, 83, who was best known for hosting the family TV show It's a Knockout and was still working for the BBC as a soccer radio commentator until recently, admitted 14 counts of indecent offences against young girls over two decades, with the youngest victim aged just nine.
Hall has been described as an "opportunistic predator" by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) after he admitted to a string of historic sex offences against girls.
Three months after dismissing the allegations as "pernicious, callous, cruel and, above all, spurious", the 83-year-old was forced to admit that his accusers had been telling the truth.
Hall first made the admissions at a brief hearing at Preston crown court on 16 April. But they could not be reported because he was facing trial over an allegation that he raped a 22-year-old woman in 1976. It emerged yesterday that the rape case had been left to lie on file, along with three other allegations of indecent assault.
Hall, wearing a dark blue suit and striped tie, stood in the well of the court as Judge Anthony Russell set him free on bail but told him he would pass sentence on 17 June.
The judge said: "All sentencing options, including custody, will be available to the court. I genuinely have not made up my mind."
Hall was described as an opportunistic predator by Nazir Afzal, chief crown prosecutor for north-west England.
Outside the court he said: "We prosecuted Stuart Hall because the evidence of the victims clearly established a pattern of behaviour that was unlawful and for which no innocent explanation could be offered.
"His victims did not know each other and almost two decades separated the first and last assaults but almost all of the victims, including one who was only nine at the time of the assault, provided strikingly similar accounts.
Whether in public or private, 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."
He added: "We have this week met the woman who alleged that she had been raped by Stuart Hall, a charge which he has denied. The welfare of complainants is a top priority for us and we always take their concerns into account. In light of the guilty pleas already entered, the complainant no longer wishes to give evidence on the allegation of rape."
Earlier, prosecutor Peter Wright said Hall's victims had been aged between nine and 17. They were abused between 1967 and 1986.
As he left court, Hall was mobbed by the media, but he refused to respond to questions.
Hall's lawyer Crispin Aylett said Hall is "sorry for what he has done" and wishes to apologise to his victims.
"He is only too aware his disgrace is complete," Aylett said.
Hall, who was suspended by the BBC in December last year when the allegations first arose, was sacked by the corporation yesterday with immediate effect.
Asked whether any of the offences had taken place on BBC premises, the spokesman said: "The BBC has, and will continue to work with the police on all of this. We are providing the police with any assistance we can."
Hall's eccentric delivery had made him a popular figure in British broadcasting for half a century. He was awarded an OBE in the New Year honours list of 2012.
The allegations against him emerged in January, and the father of two was subsequently charged with three separate indecent assaults of young girls between 1974 and 1984. He then faced the rape charge and 14 further charges of sexual assault against 10 girls between 1967 and 1986.
Hall used the occasion of his first appearance at Preston crown court to make an emotional plea of innocence, saying; "The last two months of my life have been a living nightmare. I have never gone through so much stress in my life and I am finding it difficult to sustain."
Reuters, The Guardian, Associated Press