Stuart Hall: Attorney General Reviews Sentence

The Attorney General is to examine whether the 15-month sentence handed to broadcaster Stuart Hall for sexually abusing young girls was "unduly lenient".

The 83-year-old former It's A Knockout presenter was jailed earlier after admitting indecent assaults on 13 girls.

The attacks spanned three decades and involved children aged as young as nine.

A "small number" of complaints have been made about the sentence, prompting an investigation by the Attorney General's Office which has the power to refer the sentence to the Court of Appeal.

A lawyer representing some of Hall's victims said they felt "vindicated" after the sentencing.

A worker from the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) - who gave Hall a good character reference during the trial - has since stepped down.

Harrowing details of the sex abuse suffered by his victims were described at Preston Crown Court.

The prosecution told how a 13-year-old victim was assaulted after they had played tennis, when he is said to have told her: "Sometimes thank you was not enough in words."

He told a 10-year-old girl to cuddle him "like she would one of her teddies" after he had given her steak and champagne, the court heard.

A 15-year-old girl was abused in Hall's dressing room at the BBC, prosecutors said.

A 13-year-old was assaulted while she was drunk and unwell at a family party and described the attack as a "frenzied maul".

[BBC launches separate inquiry]

He preyed on a nine-year-old girl while she was in bed.

Another victim, who was 17 at the time, was attacked while dressed as a cheerleader for the filming of It's A Knockout.

Hall was told by Judge Anthony Russell during sentencing that those who had admired him in his career now know there is a "darker side" to him.

He was given sentences ranging from three months to 15 months, all to run concurrently. Judge Russell said Hall would have received 20 months after a trial but he reduced the sentence to reflect his guilty pleas.

He said there was a degree of planning and premeditation in some of the assaults and he criticised Hall's initial "brazen" attitude when charged.

The judge said: "Several of these cases reveal an abuse of power by you because your status gave you an influence and standing which you abused."

He added: "The repeated sexual abuse of young children, too young to consent and in no position to resist your advances, even if the individual acts are relatively mild, is a serious crime and it must be made clear to anyone tempted to take advantage of young children and other vulnerable victims that they face condemnation and punishment."

Hall was branded a child abuse "predator" by prosecutors.

He initially told police his victims were lying as part of a "vendetta" against people in the public eye.

When arrested last December over three claims of indecent assault, he described the allegations as "nonsense".

He told an officer one of the complainants was "a complete and utter liar".

Hall, of Wilmslow, Cheshire, went on to issue an impassioned on-camera denial of any wrongdoing, describing the allegations against him as "cruel".

Judge Russell condemned Hall for choosing not to maintain a "dignified silence" and said that he added to the suffering of his victims by adopting that stance.

"It is clear from the victim statements that I have seen that your brazen attitude when first charged, and the public protests of your innocence, have added to the distress of some if not all of your victims," he said.

[Latest Stuart Hall News]

Later, he would admit 14 indecent assaults on 13 girls between 1967 and 1987.

The initial publicity around his arrest led to other women coming forward, including a woman who said she had been raped by Hall in the 1970s when she was 22.

The rape charge was denied by Hall and has been left on file.

Hall's defence barrister Crispin Aylett told the court his offences were at the "less serious end of the scale".

He said Hall's life was "unblemished" in the years since the offences, and statements were submitted about Hall's charity work.

Mr Aylett, explaining his client's TV work, said he had "brought laughter to millions" and that if he were jailed, he might die in prison.

Mr Aylett criticised some media reports about the case since Hall pleaded guilty and asked the judge to carry out the sentencing with a degree of proportion.

He said his client had been arrested "as a consequence" of the investigations into Jimmy Savile, "who used young girls on a scale that is simply staggering".

Hall - who also faces civil claims from some of his victims - showed no emotion as he was led from the dock to begin his sentence.

Alan Collins, from law firm Pannone, which is representing some of the victims who attended court today - said the sentence sent out "a strong and uncompromising message that abusers will not escape justice".

Commenting on behalf of his clients, he added: "I have spoken to a number of them already and they all feel vindicated that their allegations of abuse have been proven by Hall's admission of guilt.

"He had previously denied allegations and accused his victims of lying. This was hurtful, distressing and insulting for them.

"We should remember that the youngest of this man's victims was just nine-years-old and a custodial sentence is no more than he deserves."

Hall has been placed on the Sex Offenders Register for 10 years and as "a wealthy man", said the judge, was ordered to pay prosecution costs of £11,522.

Following sentencing the BBC said in a statement: "The BBC is appalled that some of Stuart Hall's crimes took place in connection with his work at the BBC and offer an unreserved apology to the people he abused."

Labour confirmed that Shadow Attorney General Emily Thornberry had written to Dominic Grieve urging him to refer the sentences to the Court of Appeal because "it is unduly lenient".

Harriet Harman, deputy leader of the Labour party, tweeted: "18 yrs offending & Stuart hall gets less than 18 months. Unduly Lenient Sentence. Attorney General must refer sentence to Court of Appeal."

Peter Wanless, chief executive of the child protection charity NSPCC, said: "Hall will be free within months, but the trauma he caused his victims will stay with them a lot longer - possibly for the rest of their lives. He has shown total disregard for their feelings, even arrogantly branding them liars.

"Whilst it's commendable that this case was pursued even after such a long passage of time, the end result is not a great day for justice or for the victims."

Detective Superintendent Neil Esseen of Lancashire Police's major investigation team praised the victims for coming forward to report the abuse.