John Halewood-Dodd column: Public pressure played its part in TV presenter case

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Given that I haven’t written anything on legal issues for some time I thought I should return to the area that I’m supposedly an expert in.

I have been fascinated by the outcry to the sentence meted out to the disgraced television presenter Stuart Hall.

In my view the adverse reaction of the media, and in particular the ‘Red Tops’, played no small part in the case being referred to the Attorney General as it was felt to be far too lenient.

Public pressure played its part and the 15-month period of imprisonment was doubled to 30 months.

I know that some were not satisfied with that and have argued, often without being aware of the facts of the case, that he should have been locked up and the key thrown away.

Offences of a sexual nature are the quickest to stir public opinion, and I feel sure that if we still had 
either capital or corporal punishment the argument that some much more gruesome sentence was appropriate would have been voiced.

Personally I feel the judge gave Hall an appropriate sentence bearing in mind his guilty pleas, the historic nature of the offences and therefore the delay in their being reported, and his age.

As is true of any crime, my view may have been different had I known any of his victims personally.

But looking at the situation objectively I do not believe his sentence was too lenient.

What I did find disturbing about the whole situation was that the judge was lambasted by the press, with personal attacks on his sexuality being particularly depressing.

Stuart Hall presented regional news programmes for the BBC in the North West in the 1960s and 1970s, and became known nationally for presenting It’s a Knockout.