Former BBC DJ Alex Belfield has been found guilty of the relentless stalking of other broadcasters, including Jeremy Vine, whom he subjected to an “avalanche of hatred”.
The ex-radio host, who presented on BBC Radio Leeds, was labeled “the Jimmy Savile of trolling” during a trial which heard he repeatedly posted or sent abusive messages, videos and emails.
Jurors at Nottingham Crown Court accepted Belfield caused serious alarm or distress to two victims and he was found guilty of “simple stalking” in relation to Channel 5 and BBC Radio 2 presenter Mr Vine and theater blogger Philip Dehaney.
Mr Vine also gave evidence against Belfieldtelling jurors: “This is not a regular troll here. This is the Jimmy Savile of trolling.”
Describing watching Belfield’s video output as like swimming in sewage, Mr Vine said: “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 convicted the YouTube host, who in recent years set up a channel known as Celebrity Radio, after deliberating for 14 hours and 27 minutes.
The 42-year-old was also found guilty of stalking BBC Radio Northampton presenter Bernie Keith and videographer Ben Hewis.
Belfield 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 honor a friend of the broadcaster.
Giving evidence, Mr Vine said: “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.”
Belfield 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. “
He was granted bail and will be sentenced on 16 September.