Hall in 2010
|Born||James Stuart Hall
25 December 1929 
Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire, England
|Spouse(s)||Hazel (m. 1958)|
James Stuart Hall (born 25 December 1929) is an English former radio and television presenter. He presented regional news programmes for the BBC in North West England in the 1960s and 1970s, while becoming known nationally for presenting It's a Knockout and Jeux Sans Frontières. His later career mainly involved football reporting on BBC radio.
In December 2012 and January 2013, Hall was charged with multiple sexual offences across a twenty-year period. Although he initially denied any wrongdoing, he pleaded guilty in April 2013 to having indecently assaulted 13 girls, aged between 9 and 17 years old, between 1967 and 1986. The BBC terminated his contract and he was sentenced at Preston Crown Court to 15 months in prison. Following sentencing, the Attorney General's office received complaints that the sentence was unduly lenient; it was referred to the Court of Appeal for review and his sentence was increased to 30 months. In May 2014 he was found guilty on two further charges but cleared of others, and was sentenced to an additional 30 months in prison. He was released on licence in December 2015 after serving half his sentence.
Hall was born in Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire, the eldest son of baker James Stuart, and his Irish-born wife, Mary Hall (née Hennessey). He was brought up in Hyde, Cheshire, and Glossop, Derbyshire, attending the local grammar school where he stayed after school hours for voluntary extra English language tuition. He directed plays when at school, and chaired its debating society.
While studying at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology he was offered a contract with Crystal Palace F.C., but turned it down because of the low wages.
Hall joined the BBC in 1959 as a general reporter on Radio Newsreel and a sports journalist on Sports Report. Between 1965 and 1990, he presented the BBC's regional news programmes for the North West produced in Manchester, originally called Look North, then Look North West and finally North West Tonight, alongside John Mundy. During the run of Nationwide (1969–83), he became known nationally through live link-ups.
Hall became particularly well known as the presenter of BBC television's It's a Knockout between 1972 and 1982 and its European equivalent, Jeux Sans Frontières. He would often be overcome by laughter at the slapstick antics of the competitors. This led to his becoming a popular subject for impersonation. After the series was cancelled, he presented the one-off Grand Knockout Tournament (also known as "It's a Royal Knockout") in 1987, and retained the rights to the programme and some costumes, which enabled him to host similar programmes and events in other parts of the world.
He also presented Quiz Ball (a football quiz) on BBC television during the early 1970s and he was the original host of the long-running sports quiz A Question of Sport (at that time only broadcast in the North of England); and in the late 1990s he presented Going, Going, Gone, an antiques quiz show for the BBC and provided the voice-over for God's Gift for Granada.
In 2008, he provided his voice for a special segment on Les Dennis's Home Video Heroes. In a typical episode, he would be shown a series of funny clips and there would be a 'laugh-ometer' at the bottom of the screen measuring how much he laughed.
As a football reporter, Hall is associated with the phrase "The Beautiful Game", which he popularised, and which he reports he coined in his youth to describe football. As a lifelong Manchester City supporter he admired prolific goal-scorer Peter Doherty's style of playing and consequently used the phrase "The Beautiful Game" to describe Doherty.
The first football match that he reported on was Sheffield Wednesday versus Leicester City at Hillsborough in 1958, where the teams shared eight goals. His reports were unique, scattered with allusions to the works of William Shakespeare and all manner of linguistic tricks. Despite his love of Manchester City, he has affectionately referred to their former home ground Maine Road as the Theatre of Base Comedy, an allusion to City's Manchester rivals Manchester United's home ground Old Trafford, which is known as the "Theatre of Dreams".
During the 1970s, Hall developed a relationship with Liverpool manager Bill Shankly, and became a regular visitor to the Anfield 'Boot Room'. His relationship with Bob Paisley enabled him to pull off a coup, capturing the team's first European Cup final in 1977 in Rome. Smuggled into the ground as a club employee, Hall spent the match on the substitutes' bench wearing the No 14 shirt. This enabled him to get inside television footage of the team's 3–1 win over Borussia Mönchengladbach. As a television presenter with Look North, he used to turn out for benefit matches, scoring twice against Gordon Banks in Eddie Hopkinson's testimonial at Bolton Wanderers
Hall worked as a football reporter for BBC Radio 5 Live for some years. On 10 December 2009 Radio 5 Live presented a special programme, Stuart Hall Night, broadcast live from the City of Manchester Stadium.
In May 2012, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, a journalist and regular columnist for The Independent, received an anonymous three-page letter alleging that Hall had groomed and sexually abused the sender while she was a schoolgirl in the 1970s. The writer stated that she had been motivated to disclose her experiences by the Jimmy Savile sexual abuse scandal and by her anger at Hall's appointment as an OBE in the 2012 New Year Honours. Alibhai-Brown passed the letter to the Metropolitan Police at Ealing police station who in turn sent it on to Lancashire Constabulary, in whose jurisdiction the alleged offences had occurred, who then began an investigation.
On 5 December 2012, police arrested Hall and charged him with three historical counts of indecent assault, involving a 16- or 17-year-old girl in 1974, a 9-year-old girl in 1983, and a 13-year-old girl in 1984. Released on bail, he initially denied any wrongdoing, issuing a statement through his solicitor that he was "innocent of these charges". When he appeared at Preston Magistrates' Court on 7 January 2013, he pleaded not guilty to all three charges. The case was committed to Crown Court for trial. Hall was released on bail on condition that he remained resident at his home address and had no unsupervised contact with children under the age of 17.
Media coverage of the case led to more women coming forward to state that Hall had also sexually abused them. On 22 January 2013, he was charged with raping a 22-year-old woman in 1976 and indecently assaulting 10 more girls, then aged from 9 to 17 years old, between 1967 and 1986. Speaking to reporters after an appearance at Preston Magistrates Court on 7 February 2013, Hall again denied any wrongdoing, calling the charges "pernicious, callous, cruel and, above all, spurious".
At a pre-trial hearing at Preston Crown Court on 16 April 2013, Hall pleaded guilty to 14 charges of indecent assault involving 13 girls aged between 9 and 17 years old. He was released on bail pending sentencing on 17 June. Reporting restrictions prevented the media from making the news public until 2 May 2013, when the Crown Prosecution Service elected not to pursue the rape charge or three other indecent assault charges relating to the same complainant, who had decided not to give evidence. Hall made a statement through his barrister, issuing an "unreserved apology" to his victims.
When the news of Hall's guilty plea became public, the BBC immediately terminated his contract and stated: "The BBC is appalled by the disgraceful actions of Stuart Hall and we would like to express our sympathy to his victims." Lord Patten, chairman of the BBC Trust, initially announced that Dame Janet Smith would extend her inquiry into the Jimmy Savile sex abuse scandal to include Hall's sex offences. The BBC subsequently decided to launch a separate inquiry headed by a different individual.
Land Registry records revealed that on 22 February 2013, Hall transferred his home, which he and his wife Hazel had owned jointly since 1981, into his wife's sole name. Although he claimed that he was getting his financial affairs in order because of a heart condition that left him at risk of sudden death, lawyers acting for his victims said they would seek a court order to nullify the transfer of the property, worth an estimated £1.2 million, on the basis that he had relinquished ownership to avoid compensation claims.
At Preston Crown Court on 17 June 2013, Judge Anthony Russell QC sentenced Hall to 15 months in prison. Later the same day, the attorney general's office announced that it had received complaints that the sentence was "unduly lenient." The shadow attorney general and Labour MP Emily Thornberry stated that she believed Hall deserved a longer sentence given the age of his victims and the fact that he had publicly denied the offences at first. The attorney general subsequently referred the sentence to the Court of Appeal for review. On 26 July 2013, Hall's sentence was increased to 30 months.
In a later ruling on the case of Max Clifford, the appeal court compared Clifford's case with Hall's; Clifford had claimed innocence, but did not directly impugn his victims. In contrast Hall had publicly denounced his victims and accused one of seeking “instant notoriety”. A lawyer commented on the Clifford appeal court ruling "Nothing Clifford did resembled the disastrous approach taken by Stuart Hall who, prior to pleading guilty to abusing them as girls, denounced his accusers as gold-diggers and liars." Clifford's actions were deemed merely to show no remorse, and not to justify an increased penalty on appeal, although ruling out a reduction in sentence due to mitigating factors; in contrast Hall's sentence was actually increased on appeal.
In July 2013, the media reported that 17 women were preparing to launch civil claims against Hall and the BBC, on whose premises a number of sexual assaults had allegedly taken place. Lawyers for the women confirmed that several of the claims related to alleged offences that were not part of Hall's criminal prosecution.
On 15 July 2013, Lancashire Police confirmed that five new allegations of rape and sexual assault had been made against Hall, including the alleged rape of a 12-year-old girl. These investigations resulted in a further 16 charges of rape and indecent assault being laid against Hall in October 2013. On 6 November 2013 he appeared in court in relation to these charges, but did not make any plea. He made a further appearance in court on 29 November; at a preliminary court hearing on 28 February 2014, he pleaded not guilty to raping two young girls. He went on trial at Preston Crown Court on 6 May 2014, where he admitted indecently assaulting a girl under 16 but denied 20 further charges. On 16 May 2014, Hall was found not guilty of 15 charges of rape and four counts of indecent assault but was found guilty on one count of indecent assault. At Preston Crown Court on 23 May, Mr Justice Turner sentenced Hall to a further two years and six months in prison, to run consecutively to his existing prison sentence of 30 months.
Hall was released from HM Prison Wymott near Preston, Lancashire, on 16 December 2015, having served half his sentence. He arrived home in time for Christmas and his birthday on the same day. In a February 2016 interview with The Sun, Hall criticised his accusers, 'those who impugned' him, for bringing him down and says he hopes for 'fairness'. A woman Hall attacked when she was a teenage girl said, "To me he'll always be the lowest of the low, a vile paedophile who's ruined so many lives."
The Dame Janet Smith Review, released 25 February 2016, found that Hall had assaulted 21 female victims at the BBC, the youngest of whom was aged ten, between 1967 and 1991. The report found that some BBC staff members were aware he was bringing underage girls into his dressing room for sex, but his "untouchable" celebrity status stopped them from passing complaints to senior management.
Hall married Hazel on 1 March 1958 and lived in Wilmslow, Cheshire, until his imprisonment in 2013. The couple's first son, Nicholas, died shortly after birth because of a heart defect. They went on to have a daughter, Francesca, and another son, Daniel. They now have four grandchildren. Hall owns an extensive collection of clocks, including one that belonged to Napoleon. It was reported in February 2014 that Hall's wife was "filing for divorce" before his trial in May 2014 where he was accused, but eventually acquitted, of raping two teenage girls.
Hall was appointed as Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2012 New Year Honours for services to broadcasting and charity, but the honour was formally annulled by the Queen in October 2013, due to his conviction for sex offences.
The player I fell in love with and who inspired me to coin the phrase "the beautiful game" was Peter Doherty, an inside forward, my first hero.
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