James Stuart Hall (born 25 December 1929) is a British 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.
He was charged with multiple sexual offences in December 2012 and January 2013. 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 in December 2015.
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.
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.
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
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 PrestonMagistrates' 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." Shadow attorney general, Labour Party 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 clowned and 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. Hall was sentenced to an additional two years and six months in jail on 23 May.
Hall was released from Wymott prison, 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.
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.
^Harper, Nick (2 May 2003). "Stuart Hall". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 24 April 2011. 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.