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July 20, 2023

Jeremy Vine’s stalker agrees to pay ‘substantial’ damages to presenter

Former local radio presenter Alex Belfield was jailed for stalking Vine and others last year.

By PA Media and Press Gazette

Jeremy Vine’s stalker has agreed to pay “substantial” damages to the broadcaster after targeting him with a “hurtful and distressing” campaign of harassment, the High Court has been told.

Alex Belfield, a former BBC local radio presenter, also wanted to “apologise unreservedly” for making “false allegations of dishonesty” after settling a civil claim brought by Vine, a judge heard on Thursday.

In September, Belfield, then aged 42, was jailed for five years and 26 weeks after being convicted of four stalking charges against broadcasters, including the Channel 5 and BBC Radio 2 presenter.

He was found guilty after a trial at Nottingham Crown Court of waging a relentless stalking campaign, with Vine subjected to an “avalanche of hatred”.

Vine previously launched separate civil legal action against Belfield over his “campaign of defamation and harassment”, a hearing in London before Mrs Justice Steyn was told.

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‘No basis at all to make the false allegations of dishonesty’

Gervase de Wilde, for Vine, said Belfield had made “entirely false” allegations in nine YouTube videos and eight tweets put online between May and August 2020.

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This included the false claim that Vine was “seriously and demonstrably dishonest” because he had “publicly and repeatedly lied” about his knowledge of the circumstances in which the BBC gave him £1,000 for a memorial event for radio executive John Myers.

Myers, who died in June 2019, was one of Vine’s “closest friends”, the court was told.

De Wilde said that as well as “publishing defamatory allegations of dishonesty and theft”, Belfield also sought to obtain “private information concerning” Vine, including the phone numbers of family and friends, “for the purposes of publishing and disclosing that information online”.

Belfield also encouraged members of the public to contact Vine during his broadcasting work and during “his day-to-day life”, the court heard.

Vine was left “deeply distressed” by Belfield’s campaign, de Wilde said, adding that it was “particularly hurtful and distressing” that it focused on “his honesty in relation to an event arising from the death of his friend, Mr Myers”.

“The defendant’s defamatory allegations struck at the heart of [Vine’s] long-established reputation for integrity and probity in his work as a journalist,” de Wilde said.

“[Vine] was also made deeply upset and anxious by the defendant’s harassment of him, and he became concerned for the safety of his family.”

De Wilde said Belfield had previously “remained defiant” after Vine brought his civil claim, denying liability, referring to the broadcaster as a “liar” in a video and alleging his publications were “challenging criticism”.

But after being convicted by a jury at Nottingham Crown Court in last year’s separate criminal proceedings, Belfield now accepts that “the defamatory and seriously harmful allegations of dishonesty which he made against [Vine] are entirely false”, de Wilde said.

The barrister added: “He also accepts that the publications for which he was responsible have been found to have amounted to unlawful harassment of [Vine].”

De Wilde told the hearing that Belfield had “agreed to pay [Vine] substantial damages, as well as his legal costs, and to give undertakings subject to a penal notice in respect of future publications and conduct concerning [Vine]”.

Alan Robertshaw, representing Belfield, said the former local radio DJ “never had any basis at all to make the false allegations of dishonesty against [Vine] for which he was responsible, and nor was there any justification for his harassment of [Vine]”.

“He wishes to apologise unreservedly for the damage and distress caused to [Vine] and his reputation by his publications and express his profound and unreserved regret for all of the harm for which he is responsible,” Robertshaw added.

Vine previously labelled Belfield “the Jimmy Savile of trolling” during the criminal trial, which heard he repeatedly posted or sent abusive messages, videos and emails.

Jurors accepted Belfield caused serious alarm or distress to two victims and found him guilty of “simple” stalking in relation to Vine and theatre blogger Philip Dehany.

On Friday 14 July a Twitter user who Vine threatened with libel action during the recent “BBC presenter'”guessing game and false allegation spree posted a retraction and apology and agreed to pay £1,000 to the MND Association in lieu of damages. The user has since made his account private.

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Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
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