Alex Belfield, a right-wing provocateur who now hosts a show on YouTube, led a relentless nine-year campaign of stalking against four victims after BBC Radio Leeds did not renew his contract in 2011.
One of the victims – TV and radio presenter Jeremy Vine – told a trial at Nottingham Crown Court that 42-year-old Belfield was “the Jimmy Savile of trolling”.
Belfield of Mapperley, Nottinghamdenied causing serious alarm or distress to the eight victims but was convicted of four charges by jurors on Friday.
They accepted that he had caused serious alarm or distress to two victims and found him guilty of stalking Channel 5 and BBC Radio 2 presenter Mr. Vine and theater blogger Philip Dehany.
He was found not guilty of stalking the BBC’s former head of the North Rozina Breen, former BBC Radio Leeds presenters Liz Green and Stephanie Hirst and former BBC worker Helen Thomas.
The court was told Belfield repeatedly posted or sent mocking and abusive messages on social media, videos and emails to colleagues after his one-year contract was not renewed.
He showed no emotion and wrote notes on a piece of paper when he was found guilty of committing the offenses between 2012 and 2021.
The court was told the 42-year-old started out as a broadcast assistant on local radio and in recent years set up a YouTube channel known as Celebrity Radio.
Opening the Crown’s case last month, prosecutor John McGuinness QC said Mr Vine was subjected to a “constant bombardment” of harassing tweets and YouTube videos by Belfield in 2020.
The presenter faced a wave of abuse online after false and completely baseless claims were made in relation to the alleged theft of £1,000, the court heard.
Belfield is said to have developed a “dislike, almost hatred” for Mr Vine after the BBC donated the sum to a memorial fund set up to honor a friend of the broadcaster.
In his evidence, Mr Vine, who launched a separate defamation case last year, said of Belfield: “I found it shocking and worrying and it worried me. I’ve had a physical stalker following me in the past.
“It’s a picnic compared to this guy. It’s like an avalanche of hate that hits you.”
Another of Belfield’s victims included a videographer who was stalked online after tweeting his disgust at one of Belfield’s YouTube videos.
McGuinness told the court the offenses began in November 2012, a year after Belfield’s one-year contract at BBC Radio Leeds was not renewed.
Prosecutors said Belfield was “not prepared to move on” after leaving the BBC and became unhappy with what he perceived as unfair treatment from his managers.
McGuinness told the court: “It is not suggested that the defendant’s conduct involved physical stalking… although such was the effect of what Alex Belfield did that some were indeed concerned about the possibility of Mr Belfield turning up at their home .
“The stalking that this case is about 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 said about them.
“But he went ahead and he did it anyway,” said the prosecution, who relentlessly harassed them, knew or was aware that 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 had claimed he was the victim of a social media “pile-on” and a “witch hunt” by other broadcasters after exercising his right to free speech in communicating with the complainants.
He was granted bail and will be sentenced on September 16.
Additional reporting from the Press Association