Convicted paedophile Stuart Hall was cleared by a jury today of a string of rapes and sexual assaults.
Hall, 84, made no reaction as he was convicted of one indecent assault but cleared of 15 rapes and four other indecent assaults by a jury of eight women and four men following seven hours and 15 minutes of deliberations.
At the start of the trial he had pleaded guilty to one other count of indecent assault.
The former BBC broadcaster mouthed ‘Thank you’ to the jury at Preston Crown Court at the end of the two-week trial as he was led away to the cells to continue serving his sentence for earlier offences.
Hall wearing a dark suit, white shirt and striped tie, sat impassively in the dock, legs crossed, hands resting on his lap, as he was told he will be sentenced for the one charge he was convicted of next Friday, before trial judge Mr Justice Turner.
The former It’s A Knockout presenter and BBC Radio 5 Live football match summariser was not due to be released until September.
He was taken from custody in Leyland, Lancashire, last October and was questioned about allegations from the two complainants who came forward after his conviction last year.
He was then charged with numerous counts of rape and indecent assault, which he denied.
Both girls and their families were known to the defendant.
Hall, from Wilmslow, Cheshire, chose not to give evidence from the witness box as his defence team questioned whether the case was “a persecution” rather than a prosecution.
The broadcaster - who was then in his mid-40s - said the sex with the girls in their mid-teens was consensual.
Many of the encounters were at BBC television studios in Manchester - at Piccadilly and at Oxford Road - where Hall presented the corporation’s regional news programme.
Hall’s barrister Crispin Aylett QC questioned why both girls would continually return to the BBC studios and suggested it was because they enjoyed the “charming” and “charismatic” company of the “larger-than-life” defendant.
He said the sexual activity was wrong but Hall was not a rapist.
Last year, Preston Crown Court heard that Hall indecently assaulted a 15-year-old girl at Oxford Road and also exploited his BBC connections to sexually exploit three other girls.
A detailed investigation into Hall’s conduct at the BBC is being carried out by retired High Court judge Dame Linda Dobbs.
Hall was initially given a 15-month prison term last year but the Court of Appeal ruled the sentence was “inadequate” and it was doubled a month later.
The appeal judges were told that Hall was “not in particularly robust health” and could die in prison. The married father of two was stripped of his OBE for broadcasting and charity in the wake of his convictions.
He was a familiar face and voice in British broadcasting for half a century, and his eccentric and erudite football match summaries made him a cult figure on BBC Radio 5 Live.
He also wrote a weekly sport column for the Radio Times until his arrest.
Last summer, Preston Crown Court heard that Hall directly exploited his role as a popular BBC presenter with a “genial personality” to target four of his victims, while he assaulted another four on the pretence of giving elocution lessons to them at his home.
When arrested, the broadcaster told police the complainants were all lying as part of “a vendetta going on against people in the public eye”.
He later told the press that the claims against him, dating back to 1967, were “cruel, pernicious and spurious’’ before he finally admitted his guilt.
Detectives and Crown Prosecution Service lawyers looked ashen faced after the not guilty verdicts were delivered.
Hall was already serving a sentence of 30 months after admitting 14 counts of indecent assault against 13 girls aged nine to 17.
But he maintained throughout the two women who later came forward to claim they were raped had agreed to consensual sex.
In an opening statement to the jury at the trial, Hall’s barrister Mr Aylett said all the allegations his client faced came under the Sexual Offences Act 1956.
That act provided for offences of rape and indecent assault but also unlawful sexual intercourse with a girl under 16, he said.
He said the above law also came with an “important restriction” - a 12-month limit when a complaint could be made from the time of the offence.
Mr Aylett said if Hall had been investigated for the offences at the time, he would have been guilty of unlawful sex with a girl under 16.
He said: “Unfortunately, rightly or wrongly, there is a prohibition from bringing such a charge 30 years or so down the line.”
He added: “What is the position where a middle-aged man has sexual intercourse with a teenager?
“Let me say from the outset that none of this should have happened.
“The girls were teenagers. The defendant was in his 40s and he had no one to blame but himself.”
A note on a question of law of the 1956 Act was passed to the judge from the jury shortly after they today began their second day of deliberations.
Mr Justice Turner told jurors: “It is an offence to have sexual intercourse with a female under the age of 16 but no proceedings can be brought in relation to such an offence after 12 months had expired from the date of the offence.
“In this case it would be wholly impermissible for the prosecution to make such an allegation because 12 months had passed.
“However, the 20 counts you are dealing with relate to two offences.
“One is rape and the other category is indecent assault.
“Such a free standing offence of indecent assault is therefore not subject to the 12-month time limit so therefore it is permissible for the prosecution to bring these charges and permissible to bring charges of rape.”