Stuart Hall’s jail term doubled: TV star ‘lived a lie and got away with it for decades’

DISGRACED veteran broadcaster Stuart Hall had his 15 month prison sentence for sex offences increased to 30 months by Court of Appeal judges today.

Disgraced broadcaster Stuart Hall

Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge, Lady Justice Rafferty and Mrs Justice Macur, sitting in London, ruled that the original 15 months was “inadequate” and should be upped to 30 months.

Hall, 83, from Wilmslow, Cheshire, who admitted 14 counts of indecent assault against girls as young as nine between 1967 and 1987, kept his head bowed as he listened to proceedings via video link from HMP Preston and showed no reaction as the decision was announced.

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The case was referred to the court by Attorney General Dominic Grieve, who argued that Hall’s sentence was “unduly lenient” as it failed to adequately reflect the gravity of his offending and the “public concern” about such crimes.

Former It’s A Knockout presenter Hall was sentenced to the 15 months at Preston Crown Court last month by the Recorder of Preston, Judge Anthony Russell QC.

Lord Judge said Hall “got away with it” for decades and had “lived a lie for more than half of his life”.

After the announcement, Mr Grieve said: “I asked the court to consider the multiple offending by Stuart Hall over a prolonged period of time which involved numerous victims.

“I also asked that the court take into account the breaches of trust in this case - Hall carried out some of these offences in places where the victims were entitled to feel safe, he used his celebrity status to invite them to attend the BBC, and he also displayed an element of planning and premeditation.

“I am pleased that the court found that 15 months was unduly lenient and have today increased that sentence to 30 months and I hope that this case has highlighted the fact that historical sexual offences are always taken very seriously and show that the law still applies, whoever the offender may be.”

Hall directly exploited his role as a popular BBC presenter to target four of his victims, while he assaulted another four on the pretence of giving elocution lessons to them at his home.

Before entering his guilty plea in April, he had made a public pronouncement on the steps of a court, describing all the claims against him as “cruel, pernicious and spurious”.

Hall was arrested and subsequently charged on December 5 last year with indecently assaulting three young girls.

More women came forward as a result of publicity and he was rearrested before he later admitted sexual offences relating to 13 victims.

Judge Russell told Hall: “Several of these cases reveal an abuse of the trust placed in you by the parents of these children but all of them reveal an abuse of power by you because your status gave you an influence and standing which you abused.”

The judge said Hall would have received 20 months after a trial but he reduced the sentence to reflect his guilty pleas.

He concluded: “This is by no means the worst example of sexual abuse of children to come before the court but, notwithstanding the mitigation, I have come to the conclusion that, taken together, these offences do call for a sentence of imprisonment which must be served immediately.

“The repeated sexual abuse of young children, too young to consent and in no position to resist your advances, even if the individual acts are relatively mild, is a serious crime and it must be made clear to anyone tempted to take advantage of young children and other vulnerable victims that they face condemnation and punishment.’’

At the Crown Court, Hall’s defence barrister Crispin Aylett QC said that 27 years had passed since the last offence and the presenter had led an “unblemished” life over those years.

The length of the jail term was immediately criticised as “unduly lenient” by shadow attorney general Emily Thornberry, who urged Mr Grieve to look at the matter.

Harriet Harman, deputy leader of the Labour Party, also added to calls for the sentence to be referred.

Lord Judge said today that the court took the view that Hall’s earlier public denial was a “seriously aggravating” feature of the case.

Hall’s counsel, Crispin Aylett QC, told the appeal judges that the original sentence was “entirely appropriate” and, if it was merciful, that was because Hall pleaded guilty at an early stage of the proceedings, was 83 and his last offence was committed 27 years ago.

He said that Hall was not in particularly robust health and there was the risk that he would die in prison. The court was told he had an irregular heartbeat which gave him an increased risk of a stroke, sinusitis and other infirmities of creeping old age.

His prison report made it clear that custody was proving to be a chastening experience for him, although he was adjusting and had moved from contemplating suicide - which he had promised his family not to do - to a state of mind where he believed he would have a life after release but of a significantly different kind than before.

“For all those who thought that within a fortnight, he would be moved to an open prison and watching Sky Sports in his carpet slippers, the reality is that he is still in Preston, locked up from 4pm until 9.30am and has all his meals in his cell which he shares with another inmate.

“He sleeps on the bottom bunk because he cannot manage the stairs to the top. His sleeping tablets have been taken from him and he endures the heat-wave with the same fortitude as everyone else save that his fresh air is limited to a stroll around the exercise yard.

“He is referred to as a model prisoner.”

He added: “This court should not interfere with the sentence passed. If the object was to see this man punished, disgraced and financially ruined, well, all of that has been more than achieved.”

The judges heard that matters which went to his credit included the letters he would write to the elderly and lonely and the fact that he had been a successful TV and radio entertainer who had brought a great deal of pleasure to people.

David Tucker, policy lead at the NSPCC, said the charity welcomed the decision.

“Whilst we understand the judge who gave the original sentence was constrained by the legal maximum sentence that existed at time the offences took place, there were good reasons to view a 15 month sentence as too short for sex crimes against children,” he said.

“Stuart Hall did eventually plead guilty but only after very publicly refuting the claims and adding to the distress of his victims.

“We need to send a strong message that these crimes will be taken seriously even after a long passage of time as victims often find it very difficult to come forward until they are older.”

The law firm Pannone is representing 17 women who are bringing compensation claims against Hall and the BBC, including many of those named as victims in the trial.

Pannone lawyer Alan Collins welcomed the sentence, saying that it was merited given Hall’s public comments on the steps of the court.

“It sends out a clear signal that the courts will take very seriously this sort of offending,” he said.

“It took into account Hall’s attitude to those women.

“It’s good the Court of Appeal saw that (the speech on the steps) was an aggravating factor, it was terrible, he shouldn’t have done it.”

The Attorney General said the fact that Hall called his accusers liars was an aggravating factor.

Mr Grieve told BBC News: “It was clearly an aggravating factor. You mentioned earlier abuse of trust, abuse of power... He was a man in a powerful position and that statement was an assertion of power over the people who had made these very serious complaints against him - a denial, and indeed he accused them of being liars.

“So, of course it was an aggravating feature and I think what we see with these cases, people have commented that more of these historic sex abuse cases are coming to light, and I think that one of the reasons is that taboos are breaking down.

“I’d like to think that prosecutors and the police are being much more sympathetic in the way that they receive the complaints that come in and so I’m pleased that we’re beginning to see many of these historic cases come forward and individuals who may at times be in powerful positions and believe they can act with impunity being brought to justice.”

Lord Judge said: “We have to record that the successful career hardly provides mitigation at all - on the contrary it was the career that put him in a position of trust that he was then able to exploit.”

It contributed to his image as a cheerful, fun-loving, “fundamentally decent man” and to the view that he could be trusted, or if he could not be trusted “that effectively he was untouchable”.

The judge said that, to his victims, Hall must have seemed a “figure of power and authority and influence”.

He pointed out that there was public concern over crimes involving the “molestation” of children and young teenagers.