Alex Belfield, a YouTuber and former local BBC radio presenter, has been found guilty of stalking four people, including broadcaster Jeremy Vine.
Jurors at Nottingham crown court found Belfield, whom Vine described in court as “the Jimmy Savile of trolling”, guilty of four counts of stalking. Belfield, 42, showed no emotion as the sentences were handed down.
Jurors accepted that Belfield caused serious alarm or distress to two victims – BBC Radio Northampton presenter Bernie Keith and videographer Ben Hewis. He was also found guilty of “simple” stalking in relation to Vine and theater blogger Philip Dehany.
He was found not guilty of stalking Rozina Breen, the BBC’s former head of North; the former BBC Radio Leeds presenters Liz Green and Stephanie Hirst; and Helen Thomas, a former BBC worker.
Vine, a broadcaster with BBC Radio 2 and Channel 5, told the court Belfield had waged a campaign of abuse against him via social media and YouTube. The court heard Vine had received 5,000 to 10,000 hateful tweets following Belfield’s comments. He described watching Belfield’s video output as like swimming in sewage.
“This is no ordinary troll here. This is the Jimmy Savile of trolling,” Vine told the court.
Keith told jurors he was left with suicidal thoughts after a “tsunami of hate” from Belfield.
During his four-week trial, Belfied chose not to give evidence. He used his closing speech in defense to describe himself as a whistleblower who had had two and a half years of his life “torn apart” by police inquiries. He claimed he was subjected to a “witch hunt” and an online “pile-on” by other broadcasters.
Prosecutor John McGuinness QC said Vine was subjected to a “constant bombardment” of harassing tweets and YouTube videos in 2020. He said Belfield’s conduct after his contract with BBC Radio Leeds ended in 2011 “went beyond any reasonable exercise of freedom of expression”.
Belfield is said to have developed a “dislike, almost hatred” of Vine after the BBC made a donation to a memorial fund set up to honor a friend of the broadcaster.
In her evidence, Vine, who launched a separate defamation case last year, said of Belfield: “I found it shocking and disturbing and it worried me. I’ve had a physical stalker follow me in the past. It’s a picnic compared to this dude. It’s like an avalanche of hate that hits you.”
Belfield was granted bail and will be sentenced next month.
Vine retweeted reports of the verdict but has yet to comment.