Ex-BBC Host Hall Pleads Guilty to 14 Sex-Assault Offenses

Stuart Hall, a former host of British Broadcasting Corp. television programs, pleaded guilty to 14 sexual-assault offenses involving victims as young as 9 over a period spanning almost two decades.

Hall, who hosted British comedy game show “It’s a Knockout” in the 1970s, will be sentenced next month at Preston Crown Court in northern England, the U.K. Crown Prosecution Service said in a statement. The 83-year-old Hall was an “opportunistic predator,” prosecutor Nazir Afzal said.

“We prosecuted Stuart Hall because the evidence of the victims clearly established a pattern of behavior that was unlawful and for which no innocent explanation could be offered,” Afzal said in the statement. “Whether in public or private, Hall would first approach under friendly pretences and then bide his time until the victim was isolated.”

Officers are probing the abuse of hundreds of children over almost 50 years by people in the entertainment industry. The investigations began with accusations against the late BBC television star Jimmy Savile, whose alleged actions triggered a scandal at the world’s biggest broadcaster.

Max Clifford, a celebrity publicist who has represented O.J. Simpson, was charged last month with sexual offenses involving girls as young as 14 over almost two decades.

Prosecutors said they dropped a rape charge against Hall after securing guilty pleas on the other counts. Hall faces a maximum prison sentence of 10 years for indecent assault.

BBC ‘Appalled’

“The BBC is appalled by the disgraceful actions of Stuart Hall and we would like to express our sympathy to his victims,” the broadcaster said in a statement. “We will continue to work with the police to assist them in this and any other enquiries they are making.”

The sexual-abuse investigation was opened in October after broadcaster ITV Plc aired a story about Savile almost a year after his death at the age of 84. Savile was involved in sexual abuse on an “unprecedented scale,” police said.

The police have made about a dozen arrests in what’s being called Operation Yewtree, a probe targeting people who may have engaged in abuse with Savile or acted on their own during the same period. Other people arrested include singer Gary Glitter and former BBC disc jockey Dave Lee Travis.

Savile, who died in 2011, committed more than 200 criminal sexual-abuse offenses at the BBC, in schools and in more than a dozen hospitals, mental homes and a hospice, London police said in a final report about the former entertainer in January.

Savile wasn’t prosecuted, even after four women made reports to two U.K. police departments in 2007 and 2008 in which they described abuse when they were children. Authorities across the U.K. have been investigating allegations of historical sex-abuse claims following alleged failures related to Savile.

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