Former BBC presenter convicted of stalking for online abuse
A former BBC radio presenter who now presents on You Tube has been found guilty of stalking four victims.
Alex Belfield (42) continually used emails, twitter and his You tube channel to publish videos about his victims, including someone who had declined to support him in pursuing a grudge, people who spoke out against his conduct towards others and a national broadcaster whom he falsely accused of underhand financial dealings.
Belfield’s methods included streams of abusive and social media posts consisting of personal insults, making false claims that he was taking legal action and accumulating legal fees, publishing personal information, threatening to contact their families and encouraging subscribers to harass the victims, which some did. This behaviour was regularly backed up with personal, abusive attacks on his YouTube channel and email campaigns circulated widely to influential and senior people in the broadcast industry. His sustained harassment and conduct left his victims feeling fearful and upset, causing a significant amount of continuing distress.
Belfield had made claims that this was a BBC prosecution. This is not the case – these were criminal proceedings. The CPS examined the evidence of his behaviour, including his broadcasts and emails and determined that it amounted to stalking because of its relentless nature. Belfield was charged with eight counts of stalking, one for each of his victims and has now been convicted by a jury for his criminal conduct.
He was today, Friday 5 August, found guilty of two counts of stalking involving serious harm or distress and two counts of simple stalking at Nottingham Crown Court following a four week trial. He was found not guilty of four further charges of stalking. He will be sentenced on 16 September.
Sheryl Monk from the CPS said: “Stalking is a very serious crime that has a severe impact on its victims. Alex Belfield’s conduct, in the form of messages, broadcasts, insults and threats, left his victims fearful and anxious. Victims feared for their families and gave accounts to the jury of the terrible impact of Belfield’s abuse on their private lives.
Throughout this trial, victims and other witnesses have given evidence with dignity and I would like to thank them for willingness to give evidence. Alex Belfield had no qualms about the abuse he handed out, in many cases publicly. The extent of his abusive behaviour provided clear evidence that this conduct was stalking.”
Building the case:
The CPS is determined to protect victims of stalking and prevent reoffending.
Cases of stalking are usually understood as the perpetrator physically following the victim or harassing them in person. Alex Belfield did not appear at victims’ homes or workplaces, but he was a constant presence online or on social media in the victims’ lives. His actions online, whether in the form of messages sent directly to victims, personal comments directed at them from his broadcasts or him contacting friends, family and colleagues had the same devastating impact on his victims. They were not easy to avoid, as even when the victim turned off their social media or blocked him he would find other routes, change his email address or contact people close to them. He would also ask followers of his channel to assist by sending their emails and tweets to his victims.
The CPS’s case was that the sustained nature of this abuse amounted to stalking.
Alex Belfield argued in his defence that as a journalist and broadcaster, his conduct amounted to free speech. The CPS presented evidence that his conduct went beyond the limits of freedom of speech and impacted adversely on the victims’ right to a private life.
There was a large amount of material in this case harvested from various social media outlets and email addresses. The CPS worked closely with the police team to present an account of the messages and broadcasts so the jury could be clear about the volume and nature of his communications.
The victims gave their evidence to demonstrate to the jury the impact that Alex Belfield’s behaviour had on them. This is not an easy process and some witnesses endured being cross examined by Belfield himself when his QC was ill.
The CPS supported these victims in giving their evidence obtaining special measures and seeking an order from the judge to have an advocate appointed by the court to cross examine the victims.
It is only thanks to witnesses being prepared to come forward and give evidence that the criminal justice system can function and the prosecution team can hold people to account.
Notes to editors
Sheryl Monk is a District Crown Prosecutor at CPS East Midlands