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Alex Bellfield: The former DJ convicted of stalking and harrassment

A stock image graphic of a microphone surrounded by hate messages and angry emojis

Alex Belfield started as a broadcast assistant before working his way up to becoming a radio presenter for various radio stations, including BBC Bristol, BBC Radio Shropshire, and BBC Hereford & Worcester.

His career was marked by several large controversies. In 2006, while Belfield was working as a Capital Gold DJ, he found himself in hot water when he referred to a 16-year-old pregnant girl as a ‘dirty little slapper’ and a ‘dirty little tart’. His comments were met with much criticism and complaints to Ofcom.

After leaving Capital Gold, Belfield secured a role working as the mid-morning presenter at BBC Radio Leeds. In December 2010, he was suspended for making inappropriate on-air comments to Look North weather presenter, Keely Donovan. His actions resulted in him being reprimanded by BBC bosses and suspended for one day. After the backlash, Belfield commented: ‘Unlike in commercial radio where you can gobs***e about anything, you have to realise the power of your words and what you say.’

The following year, Belfield sued BBC over a charity stunt that he partook in. During the stunt, he was rugby tackled by two players from the Bradford Bulls. He claimed that he suffered from cuts and bruises and spent some time in the hospital. He accused the BBC of a ‘lack of care’ which amounted to bullying. That same year, he conducted the last in-depth interview with Jimmy Savile before his death.

Belfield then left BBC Radio Leeds just one year into his three-year contract, posting on his Facebook page: ‘I couldn't do this show for another 2 years as I'd planned with content I didn't believe in. The bosses made it clear they wanted me to stay but it has been obvious for months that I'm not best suited to their news styly.’ He went on to describe his time there as the worst year of his life.

Belfield subsequently set up his own website, Celebrity Radio, and a YouTube channel called The Voice of Reason.

He was posting regularly before falling silent in 2021. Many had wondered where Belfield had gone, but they soon learned that Belfield was embroiled in a legal controversy. In June 2021, he was summonsed in relation to a handful of stalking offences, some of which dated back almost ten years.

Belfield had claimed that he left BBC Radio Leeds of his own volition in March 2011, but the truth was that bosses had refused to renew his contract. He found it impossible to move on from the BBC and became extremely disgruntled by what he perceived as unfair treatment. Over the next nine years, Belfield went on an online rampage on social media and YouTube, targeting several BBC personalities, most notably Jeremy Vine.

He made numerous YouTube videos and tweets about Vine, accusing him of stealing £1,000. The money in question had been donated by the BBC to a memorial fund that was set up in memory of one of Vine’s late friends. Vine wasn’t even aware that the BBC had made the donation.

Other videos and tweets included foul language and untrue claims, including the allegation that Vine had signed his ten-year-old daughter as a company director. Belfield even offered to pay people to harass Vine, leaving Vine fearing for the safety of him and his family.

In addition to Vine, Belfield harassed 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 campaign of harassment included bombarding the victims with vulgar emails, tweets, messages, and videos uploaded to his YouTube channel.

After Breen had refused to renew Belfield’s contract with the BBC, he sent between 4,000 and 6,000 emails over the course of five years. In one email, Belfield referred to Breen as a ‘gonzo’ for the size of her nose, while in another, he wrote about 'going lingerie shopping' with her.

Stephanie Hirst, who had taken over Belfield’s slot at BBC Radio Leeds was bombarded by hateful videos and comments from him as well. Much of the abuse had come after her gender transition. She recalled how he had become ‘very negative and very anti-me, very transphobic in the language’.

She recalled: ‘Tweets, lots of them, came my way. It’s from someone who is meant to be in your corner. He was trying to kick me whilst I was trying to claw my way back up. He was banging a drum like Animal from The Muppets – “You shouldn’t hire her, get her off the station”.’

Bernie Keith also found himself a victim of harassment from Belfield. Keith presented mid-morning shows and a weekly rock n’ roll programme on BBC Radio Northampton. The harassment came in the form of YouTube videos directed at Keith as well as emails and social media messages, all of which were highly abusive in tone. Belfield had threatened to ‘hound [him] for the rest of [his] life’. Keith said that the stalking had left him feeling suicidal. He stated: ‘This was the darkest point of my life because there was no end to it. I pleaded with him to stop. I had gone to the police to make it stop and it was just getting worse. Keith would later tell jurors at Bellfield's trial that he was left feeling suicidal after a 'tsunami of hate'.

While targeting members of the BBC, Belfield also turned his attention to a videographer, Ben Hewis. He bombarded Hewis with emails, including one in which he accused Hewis of releasing an email, without the author’s name, about Belfield. This email had come from one of Belfield’s other stalking victims which read: ‘I don't like seeing him make other people miserable - he's really not worth it. He's nothing. So I would ignore him and block his work.’ They then added: ‘Please don't attach my name to it in any form.’

After the email was shared on Twitter, Belfield threatened legal action. He then warned to ‘go via your wife to access you’ after Hewis refused to speak with Belfield. He also threatened: ‘We now have your home address after you identified your location.’ Belfield then attempted to add Hewis’ wife on Facebook and sent her a message of her own baby scan.

Philip Dehany, a theatre blogger, was targeted after he criticised Belfield’s online behaviour. He had posted a video about how Caroline Flack was the victim of cyberbullying and commented ‘that is exactly what Alex Belfield is doing, he is perpetuating hate crime and he is a cyber bully’.

Belfield responded to the video with his own video in which he said: ‘This Philip Dehany, he is the person who said I'm the kind of person who killed Caroline Flack.’ Belfield then contacted Dehany’s mother and made various other videos aimed at Dehany, including one in which he stated: ‘I’m sorry he’s skint. Chop his head off.’

Belfield was ordered to stand trial for stalking charges in July 2022.

During opening statements, Prosecutor John McGuinness said: ‘The stalking which 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 which affected their daily lives for the worse.’

During the trial, Belfield was labelled the ‘Jimmy Savile of trolling’ by Jeremy Vine. He described watching Belfield’s hate-filled videos as like swimming in sewage, stating: ‘It felt like I had a fish hook in my face and my flesh was being torn, and the only way to avoid further pain was to stay completely still.’ He described how he had to tell his 13-year-old daughter about the campaign of abuse and how he feared that one of Belfield’s 500,000 followers could ‘have a knife or acid or something’. He then turned to Belfield and said: ‘She’s his victim as well, and he doesn’t even know her name.’

Belfield told the court that he was the victim of a social media ‘witch-hunt’ by other broadcasters and said that he was only exercising his rights to freedom of speech. He claimed that his life had been ‘torn apart’ by the police inquiries into his stalking.

While the trial was ongoing, Belfield gave a running commentary on his social media accounts. He had been granted leave by the judge to keep his followers updated on his YouTube channel and then subsequently post the videos to his social media, garnering hundreds of thousands of views. Vine commented: ‘It was absolutely bizarre. He was essentially reporting on his own case – I have never heard of it happening before. You were watching your stalker read out your evidence online.’

Belfield had been allowed to post the 30 updates over the court of the four-week trial due to emphasis in court on open justice.

The jury returned with a verdict after deliberating for 14 hours and 27 minutes. They found Belfield guilty of simple stalking in relation to Jeremy Vine and Philip Dehany. He was further convicted of stalking to cause alarm and distress to BBC Radio Northampton’s Bernie Keith and videographer Ben Hewis. In the wake of the verdict, Hewis shared his victim impact statement online: ‘Since first encountering Alex Belfield in 2019, not a day has gone by without me losing countless waking and sleeping hours, terrified about what he might do next to target me and my family.’

On 16th September 2022, Belfield was sentenced to five years and 26 weeks in jail. In addition to the sentence, all four of Belfield’s victims were granted restraining orders by the judge. Belfield was acquitted of four stalking charges, but the judge made indefinite restraining orders for those other complainants: Rozina Breen, Liz Green, Stephanie Hirst, and Helen Thomas.

In handing down the sentence, Mr. Justice Saini addressed Belfield, telling him: ‘A number of witnesses said that you had “weaponised the internet”. I find that a wholly apt description of your conduct. Your offences are so serious, only a custodial sentence can be justified.’