The trial of Stuart Hall, the former TV presenter , concluded on 16th May 2014 with verdicts of not guilty on all 15 counts of rape and four out of the five counts of indecent assault. Sentencing was adjourned for one week for that offence and the further indecent assault that he had pleaded guilty of.
We have full coverage of the case under the ‘High Profile Cases’ menu above.
There were, in total, 21 allegations. On 6th May he had pleaded guilty to one allegation of indecent assault between 26th January 1978 and 1st January 1979.
There was therefore a trial concerning 20 allegations against two complainants as follows :
- one charge of rape when she was aged 11-12 (dating from 1st January 1976- 1st January 1977)
- seven charges of rape on the same complainant from when she was aged 13 to 16 (between 1st January 1979 and 1st January 1981). These are ‘specimen counts’ reflecting the prosecution allegation that there were at least 30 rapes
- three charges of indecent assault during this period
- seven charges of rape (alleged to have been committed between 1st January 1976 and 30th September 1978, when she was aged between 14 and 16). Five of these relate to when she was under 16.
- two charges of indecent assault during this period
In both cases it was alleged that Mr Hall plied the girls with alcohol and, effectively, ‘groomed’ them over a period of time.
With girl B, this occurred when she was aged between 12 and 15. This ended when she was 16.
The jury have been told about Mr Hall’s convictions last year (not that it would have been possible to find 12 people who had not heard of this) and that he denied the allegations when he was interviewed.
What was this thing about a time limit for reporting the offences?
It seems that the jury asked a question about this. In brief, under s6 Sexual Offences Act 1956 – sexual intercourse with a girl aged between 13 and 16 (USI), there was a rule that a charge had to be brought within 12 months of the alleged offence happening.
This caused problems when offences came to light later than this. There is a specific problem where someone is charged with a historic offence of rape and the jury cannot be sure that the girl did not consent. The man would be not guilty of rape because of that, but also could not be convicted of USI.
What often happened was that the Prosecution, in a way of getting round that, charged indecent assault as an alternative to rape. This is because there is no time limit on this.
Not surprisingly, the House of Lords ruled that that was an abuse of process – J  UKHL 42.A further spanner was thrown into the works in 2005 in the case of Timmins [2005[ EWCA Crim 2909 where the Court of Appeal said that if USI was left as an alternative to the jury without being charged, then that was OK. This was confirmed in Cottrell  EWCA Crim 2016.
Prosecutors are obviously wise to that and follow the procedure in Cottrell. This does appear to be unprincipled, and the sort of thing that gets the law a bad name, but there we are.
Why did Stuart Hall not give evidence? Isn’t that a bit dodgy?
No, it’s not at all dodgy, there are many reasons why defendants choose not to give evidence (we will have a post explaining this more fully shortly). It is his right not to give evidence, and the ‘right to silence’ is a fundamental part of English law.
Did the jury know about him pleading guilty? How could he get a fair trial?
We know that the jury were told about this. Normally the prosecution would have to make an application to do so and explain why it was important (and not too prejudicial) for the jury to hear about it. We assume that that was the process here, although it would all have been pretty artificial as it is hard to imagine that there was anyone in the potential jury panel who had not heard of him, and was not aware that he had pleaded guilty to child sex offences last year.
As to whether he could have a fair trial, the jury would have been told to concentrate on the evidence and not focus too much on the fact that he had pleaded guilty. As to whether that is actually possible for someone to do is anyone’s guess. Although the fact that he was acquitted may speak volumes as to that …
We have a factsheet on the prosecution and sentencing of historic sexual offences.
Mr Hall will be sentenced for the indecent assault that he has pleaded guilty to at the end of the trial (for which he will get credit for) and the one conviction for indecent assualt.
Although the offences are historic, the starting point is the Sexual Offences Guidelines from this year. Remember though that the maximum for the two offences for which he will be sentenced for is 2 years each. We don’t have the exact facts, but the sentence will be capped by that.
Had Mr Hall been convicted of the rapes, it would have been a different matter. The rape of a girl under 13 is the most serious (look at page 27). Even if it is Category 3 Harm and A Culpability, that is a starting point of 10 years. The guidance for the other rapes is at page 10. This would probably have been a Category 2 and Harm A for a starting point of 10 years also.
When the facts of the offending are known, we will return to this.