Tyrant Alex Belfield: Guilty of Stalking- Sentenced to 5 Years In Prison
Some stories feel so astonishing that every time you think of them again, you have to sit with the basic concept for a few moments just to remind yourself how staggeringly outrageous the whole affair is.
Alas, Alex Belfield has been found guilty of the relentless stalking of other broadcasters, including Jeremy Vine, who he subjected to an “avalanche of hatred”.
The 42-year-old, from Nottingham, is due to be sentenced on 16 September and has been warned he could be jailed.
Let’s do the brief summary: The ex-radio host, who presented on BBC Radio Leeds, was labelled “the Jimmy Savile of trolling” during a trial which heard he repeatedly posted or sent abusive messages, videos and emails during the period 2010-2022.
Following this destructive trial, though, has frequently resembled tipping-out time at Arkham Asylum. A fascinating story that’s so strange it could only be true.
Belfield, of course, had made claims that this was a BBC prosecution. This is not the case – these were criminal proceedings.
Anyway, Jurors deliberated for 14 hours and 27 minutes before reaching the verdicts, following a four-week trial that began on 5 July:
- Rozina Breen – not guilty
- Liz Green – not guilty
- Helen Thomas – not guilty
- Stephanie Hirst – not guilty
- Bernard Spedding – guilty (majority verdict)
- Ben Hewis – guilty (unanimous verdict)
- Philip Dehany – not guilty to the charge on the indictment but guilty of the alternative charge of “simple” stalking (majority verdict)
- Jeremy Vine – not guilty to the charge on the indictment but guilty of the alternative charge of “simple” stalking (unanimous verdict)
Giving evidence to the trial, Mr Vine described Belfield’s behaviour as “absolutely Olympic-level stalking, even for broadcasting”.
The CPS’s case was that the sustained nature of this abuse amounted to stalking.
Referring to videos shown in court from Belfield’s YouTube show, Vine said he wished he had not watched some of the content.
Vine added in court: “I wished I hadn’t. Watching this man is like swimming in sewage.”
The CPS statement concluded: “His actions online, whether in the form of messages sent directly to victims, personal comments directed at them from his broadcasts or him contacting friends, family and colleagues had the same devastating impact on his victims.”
Serial stalker Belfield argued in his defence that as a journalist, his conduct amounted to free speech. However, it was plain for anyone to see that his behaviour went beyond the legal, sane limits of freedom of speech.
As such, it is no mean feat to dominate a platform where the people on the right are incredibly angry about free speech, and those on the left are incredibly angry about hate speech.
As for the wider lessons of the scandal, what a lot it says about a society crossing the threshold of madness. As tech visionary Jaron Lanier has long been excellent at pointing out, the best way to keep people on platforms like YouTube and Twitter is to make them angry.
There’s parallels with far-right Infowars owner Alex Jones, whom this week has been ordered to pay $4.1m in damages over his repeated claims that the deadly Sandy Hook school shooting was a hoax.
The outcome in Nottingham this week is many things, but one of those is a cautionary tale about what happens when “news” is entirely unmoored from facts. He dug his own grave.
Furthermore, having represented himself at the trial, and declining to give any evidence, conspiracy theorist Belfield stated that his legal fees are £300,000.
Against the backdrop of the actually excruciating cost of living crisis, however, this spectacle is increasingly sickening. I mean, it’s also a bit like unscrewing the top of your skull and pouring Sambuca directly on to your brain.
Nevertheless, I felt bad for pretty much everyone caught in Belfield’s crazy orbit—including Alex himself, whose sorry trajectory follows the same squalid arc as so many strivers who have tragically, disastrously tried to forge their own mythos. His character and wellbeing have been really damaged by his unpleasant social media addiction.
Remember, I also received a ‘legal letter’ for my exacting 2020 account of the expanded universe of all its gnarled and wrongheaded characters.
My reply? ‘Do not contact me on behalf of your ‘client’ again or I will have no choice but to refer the matter – along with everyone else – to the police.’
Funny, I thought he appreciated free speech; but that’s limited to his own abusive free speech. The charging police officer and Jeremy Vine are believed to have launched separate defamation proceedings.
So, what are we looking at here? Anything from 6 months to 10 years in prison. A suspended sentence would suffice – I hope Belfield gets psychiatric help. Truly.
So that’s the short version, but of course it all feels inadequate. Even listing every individual injustice would render this blog dissertation length; at even cursory depth, each story is beyond disturbing and alarming.
On the plus side, the trial judge, Justice Saini, told Belfield that he needed to be “extra careful about your online communications… There’s a good chance of a custodial sentence,” he added.
Belfield may as well believe his own lies, because there is nothing to be gained from him not believing them. Except perhaps a sense of decency.
Still, as Belfield is now discovering, very few things in this life are more horrifyingly overrated than “having your day in court”.
Belfield has been sentenced to five years and a half years in jail. He will now serve half of his sentence in prison and the remainder on licence. Restraining orders have also been granted in relation to all of the complainants, including those Belfield was not convicted of stalking. Justice.