Alex Belfield – a cautionary tale

Updated 17 September 2022: Alex Belfield was sentenced at Nottingham Crown Court to five-and-a-half years in jail on 16 September 2022. Full report at Radio Today.

YouTube sensation Alex Belfield from Nottinghamshire, UK, provides a cautionary tale for anyone wanting to shock their way to fame and fortune at the expense of others.

The former local BBC host left Radio Leeds in 2011 when his one-year contract was apparently not renewed by his boss at the State broadcaster.

Belfield went on to launch Celebrity Radio, but during the government-imposed lockdowns in 2020 he built a YouTube audience of around 400,000 followers. His videos, under the Voice of Reason banner, were released almost every day – often many times a day. Many were very funny.

But as time went on so the negative accusations against individual BBC staff and police officers grew. In the background he was apparently emailing numerous people to the point that some felt in fear of their lives. One says they became suicidal as a result of Belfield’s messages.

In July 2022 Belfield ended up having to defend himself against eight charges at Crown Court for repeatedly harassing his victims, via email, through his YouTube channel, and Twitter account. Belfield called for donations from his supporters and raised £300,000 for legal bills – despite this he represented himself during the trial (although he was guided by a court-appointed barrister – probably in a bid by judge Mr Justice Saini to avoid a mistrial).

Belfield faced charges of stalking by email and online (not physical stalking). He denied all charges and did not stand in the dock to be cross examined by the prosecution (which is his choice).

The jury verdicts in relation to each complainant were:

  1. Rozina Breen – not guilty
  2. Liz Green – not guilty
  3. Helen Thomas – not guilty
  4. Stephanie Hirst – not guilty
  5. Bernard Spedding – guilty (majority verdict)
  6. Ben Hewis – guilty (unanimous verdict)
  7. Philip Dehany – not guilty to the charge on the indictment but guilty of the alternative charge of “simple” stalking (majority verdict)
  8. Jeremy Vine – not guilty to the charge on the indictment but guilty of the alternative charge of “simple” stalking (unanimous verdict)

Justice Saini advised Belfield he could face jail time when he returns to court on 16 September 2022 for sentencing (he is currently out on bail).

Giving evidence to the trial, Vine described Belfield’s behaviour as “…like an avalanche of hatred”, and “absolutely Olympic-level stalking, even for broadcasting”.

What can we learn from Belfield’s decisions?

  1. Being popular is no defense against anything
  2. Everything you say on air and publish can be held against you
  3. As far as we know, Belfield had no back-up from a major employer or liability insurance, whereas some of those complaining about Belfield had major corporations behind them when they complained to the police
  4. When the sh*t hits the fan, get a good lawyer who knows media law and take their advice
  5. If you think you have overstepped the mark, pull your head in
  6. If you want to highlight a contentious issue, talk about the issue, not the person

Belfield talked a lot about free speech. And as far as I know, nobody was curtailing his freedom, he was free to say and publish what he wanted. But freedom comes with responsibilities. And when you are irresponsible, thoughtless, careless, and inconsiderate, then there is often a price to be paid.

Steve Hart

Steve Hart

Steve Hart is a journalist and editor based in Melbourne.

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