Alex Belfield branded ‘the Jimmy Savile of trolling’ after waging relentless nine-year campaign against four victims
Alex Belfield, a right-wing provocateur who now hosts a show on YouTube, waged 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, Nottingham, denied causing serious alarm or distress to the eight victims but was convicted of four charges by jurors on Friday.
They accepted 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 theatre blogger Philip Dehany.
He was found not guilty of stalking BBC’s former head of north Rozina Breen, former BBC Radio Leeds presenters Liz Green and Stephanie Hirst, and former BBC worker Helen Thomas.
The court was told that Belfield repeatedly posted or sent mocking and abusive social media messages, 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 as he was found guilty of committing the offences between 2012 and 2021.
The court was told that 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 entirely baseless claims were made relating to the supposed theft of £1,000, the court heard.
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.
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 Belfield’s victims included a videographer who was stalked online after tweeting his disgust at one of Belfield’s YouTube videos.
Mr McGuinness told the court the offences began in November 2012, a year after Belfield’s one-year contract at BBC Radio Leeds was not renewed.
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.
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 that 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 that 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 rights to freedom of speech in communications with the complainants.
He was granted bail and will be sentenced on 16 September.
Additional reporting by Press Association