A former BBC radio presenter found guilty of stalking four people including broadcaster Jeremy Vine has been jailed for five and a half years.
Alex Belfield, who now runs a YouTube channel, stalked his victims by harassing them online.
His trial heard he made YouTube videos about them, posted messages on social media, and also encouraged his followers to target them. The judge said one of his victims was "seconds away" from killing himself.
Belfield, who is 42 and from Nottingham, was originally charged with stalking eight different people, who were mostly current or former BBC staff.
Alex Belfield waged a relentless stalking campaign against broadcasters, and Vine labelled him “the Jimmy Savile of trolling” after he repeatedly posted or sent abusive messages, videos and emails.
Belfield, 42, was convicted of four stalking charges at Nottingham Crown Court in a trial last month.
Jurors accepted he caused serious alarm or distress to two victims and was found guilty of “simple” stalking in relation to Vine, a Channel 5 and BBC Radio 2 presenter, and theatre blogger Philip Dehany. He told Belfield that while not traditional stalking, “your 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 his trial. He agreed with Vine’s characterisation that the ex-DJ had “weaponised the internet” against those he targeted.
He also ordered indefinite restraining orders be made against Belfield, in favour of his victims and four other individuals. The full wording of the charges stated he "pursued a course of conduct that amounted to harassment" of the complainants, which "amounted to stalking" and caused them "serious alarm or distress".
He was found guilty of this offence in relation to two of the complainants - BBC Radio Northampton presenter Bernie Spedding, who is known as Bernie Keith, and videographer Ben Hewis.
Mr Justice Saini, sentencing, told Belfield, who was seated in the court dock, taking notes: “Your offences are so serious, only a custodial sentence can be justified.” Vine also gave evidence against Belfield, telling jurors: “This is not a regular troll here. This is the Jimmy Savile of trolling.”
Describing watching Belfield’s video output as like swimming in sewage, Mr Vine said of the defendant’s conduct: “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.” Jurors convicted Belfield, of Mapperley, Nottingham, of four charges committed between 2012 and 2021.
The judge said a pre-sentence report showed that while Belfield “fully acknowledges the distress to victims” it also “highlights you still appear to focus on the impact on you and feel in certain respects you’ve been unfairly treated”.
In relation to Jeremy Vine and theatre blogger Philip Dehany, he was found guilty of two lesser offences of "simple" stalking, which does not require serious alarm or distress to be proved.