A former BBC DJ has been found guilty of waging a relentless stalking campaign against broadcasters and subjecting TV presenter Jeremy Vine to an “avalanche of hatred”.
Alex Belfield was labelled “the Jimmy Savile of trolling” during a 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 was found guilty of “simple” stalking in relation to Channel 5 and BBC Radio 2 presenter Mr Vine and theatre blogger Philip Dehany.
BBC Radio Northampton presenter Bernie Keith was left feeling suicidal by a “tsunami of hate”, the trial heard.
Mr Vine also gave evidence against Belfield, telling jurors: “This is not a regular troll here. This is the Jimmy Savile of trolling.”
Jeremy Vine arriving at Nottingham Crown Court to give evidence at the trial (Dave Higgens/PA)
Describing watching Belfield’s video output as like swimming in sewage, Mr Vine said of the defendant’s conduct: “It felt like I had a fish hook in my face and my flesh was being torn, and the only way to avoid further pain was to stay completely still.”
Jurors at Nottingham Crown Court deliberated for 14 hours and 27 minutes before convicting Belfield of four charges on Friday.
Belfield showed no emotion and wrote notes on a piece of paper as he was found guilty of committing the offences between 2012 and 2021.
The court was told the 42-year-old, of Mapperley, Nottingham, started out as a broadcast assistant on local radio and in recent years set up a YouTube channel known as Celebrity Radio.
He told the court he was the victim of a social media “pile-on” and a “witch-hunt” by other broadcasters, after exercising his rights to freedom of speech in communications with the complainants.
Opening the Crown’s case last month, prosecutor John McGuinness QC said Vine was subjected to a “constant bombardment” of harassing tweets and YouTube videos in 2020.
The presenter, the court heard, faced a wave of abuse online after false and entirely baseless claims were made relating to the supposed theft of £1,000.
Belfield is said to have developed a “dislike, almost hatred” of Mr Vine after the BBC donated the sum to a memorial fund set up to honour a friend of the broadcaster.
Ex-BBC presenter Alex Belfield takes a picture on his phone outside the court (Jacob King/PA)
In his evidence, Mr Vine, who launched separate defamation proceedings last year, said of Belfield: “I found it shocking and distressing, and it made me worried. I have in the past had a physical stalker who followed me.
“That is a picnic compared to this guy. It’s like an avalanche of hatred that you get hit by.”
Another one of his victims included a videographer who was stalked online after tweeting his disgust at one of Belfield’s YouTube videos.
At the start of the trial prosecutors said Belfield “wasn’t prepared to move on” after leaving the BBC and became disgruntled by what he perceived to be unfair treatment from his managers.
He was found not guilty of stalking charges in relation to the BBC’s former head of North Rozina Breen, former BBC Radio Leeds presenters Liz Green and Stephanie Hirst, and former BBC worker Helen Thomas.
Mr McGuinness told the court: “It is not suggested the defendant’s conduct involved physical stalking … although such was the effect of what Alex Belfield did that some were, in fact, worried about the possibility of Mr Belfield turning up at their homes.
“The stalking which this case is concerned with is of a different type – and is more akin to internet trolling.
“The alleged victims did not want to be contacted by Alex Belfield, they did not want to see or hear or know what it was that he was saying about them.
“But he went ahead and he did it anyway, the prosecution says, relentlessly harassing them, knowing or being aware he was harassing them – to the extent that what he did caused them serious alarm or distress which affected their daily lives for the worse.”
Belfield was granted bail and will be sentenced on September 16.