A FORMER local BBC radio presenter has been jailed for five years and 26 weeks for stalking broadcasters including Jeremy Vine.
Alex Belfield, 42, who ‘created the internet as a weapon’, was found guilty at Nottingham Crown Court last month of running a relentless campaign that saw broadcaster Mr Vine subjected to an ‘avalanche of hate’.
Mr Vine described him as the “Jimmy Savile of trolling” during the trial, which was said to have repeatedly posted or sent offensive messages, videos and emails.
Jurors found Belfield had caused serious distress or distress to the two victims and found him guilty of “simple” harassment against Channel 5 and BBC Radio 2 presenter Mr Vine and theater blogger Philip Dehaney.
BBC Radio Northampton presenter Bernie Keith was driven to suicide by a “tsunami of hate”, the court was also told.
Mr Vine gave evidence against Belfield, of Mapperley, Nottingham, telling jurors: “This is no ordinary troll. It’s Jimmy Savile trolling.’
Likening watching Belfield’s video to swimming in sewage, Mr Vine said of the defendant’s behaviour: “It felt like a fishing hook was in my face and my flesh was being torn apart and the only way to avoid further pain was to remain completely still. »
A jury found Belfield guilty of four counts committed between 2012 and 2021.
Sentencing on Friday, Judge Saini told Belfield, who sat taking notes in the dock: “Your offenses are so serious that only a custodial sentence can be justified.”
He said the pre-sentence report found that while Belfield “fully acknowledges the suffering of the victims”, it also “emphasises that you still focus on the impact on you and feel that in some ways you have been treated unfairly”.
The judge told Belfield that while not “traditional stalking”, his “methods were just as effective a way of intimidating victims and in many ways much harder to deal with”.
He said there was “no escape” for Belfield’s victims until bail conditions were imposed before the trial and agreed with Mr Vine’s characterization that the former DJ had “used the internet” against his targets.
Belfield, who has 361,000 followers on his YouTube channel The Voice Of Reason and 43,000 on Twitter, directed his attacks via social media in a “very negative and often abusive manner”, the judge said.
In his own words, his aim was to “harass” his victims and he deployed his “army of followers” to send abusive messages to those he targeted, Judge Saini said.
“Internet stalkers like you have the ability to recruit an army of followers whose behavior greatly increases the effect of your stalking,” he said.
Judge Saini added: “You have made reports which have seriously affected the personal lives of the applicants and caused distressing effects on their mental and physical health.
“You have the right to hold and express views, but you don’t have the right to destroy the privacy of your victims through online harassment.”
In Mr Keith’s case, the abuse continued for nine years and the judge said there was “no escape for him” from Belfield, who made up and repeated a completely “false and scandalous” allegation about his former friend.
The judge referred to the victim’s “vivid and disturbing evidence” in court about the influence of Belfield’s “campaign of stalking” and that he was “seconds away” from dying by suicide.
Judge Saini said: “You made this very successful and confident radio presenter lose all joy in life and reduced him to a shell.
“He was afraid of you.
“I believe you intended to maximize Mr. Keith’s suffering.”
Another of Belfield’s victims was a videographer who was targeted after tweeting his disgust at one of the defendant’s YouTube videos, sending the man a fetal scan and trying to contact his then-pregnant wife.
Belfield was also convicted of the “simple” harassment of theater blogger Philip Dehaney, who suffered a “vicious campaign of violence”.
Belfield called Mr. Dehani’s parents’ home, where he was sheltering during the lockdown, and recorded the call for his subscribers while talking to Mr. Dehani’s mother.
The judge described Mr Dehaney’s mother as “strong” for the way she calmly dealt with Belfield, telling her: “Everyone needs a mother like you.”
Judge Saini said: “It was an outrageous and cruel act to call her and make the recording”, which Belfield later used as content on his channel.
Mr Vine was subjected to false and baseless claims relating to the alleged theft of £1,000, the court heard.
Judge Saini said Belfield “set out to harass Mr Vine with a campaign of abuse”, with the broadcaster having to warn his wife and children to “keep an eye” on the defendant, especially after his home address was published by his followers.
Mr Vine faced a “stream of online abuse”, including “thousands” of social media posts from Belfield’s followers “and personal threats”.
As well as jailing Belfield, Judge Saini issued indefinite restraining orders banning the DJ from contacting his victims.
Similar rulings in favor of four others – former BBC head of north Rosina Breen, former BBC Radio Leeds presenters Liz Green and Stephanie Hurst and BBC chief Helen Thomas – were also made.
Belfield looked pale as he was led into the cell while more than 20 of his supporters watched silently from the public gallery.
JIMMY SAVILE OF TROLLING: Ex-BBC DJ jailed for stalking TV stars