John Leslie trial: Ex-Blue Peter presenter cleared of sex assault

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
John Leslie said he could not remember being at the party in 2008

Former TV presenter John Leslie has been found not guilty of sexual assault.

The 55-year-old was on trial at Southwark Crown Court accused of grabbing a woman's breasts at a Christmas party in 2008.

The woman made a complaint to the police in 2017.

Mr Leslie began his TV career in 1989 on the BBC's Blue Peter show. He went on to host Wheel of Fortune and This Morning.

The jury returned a not guilty verdict after 23 minutes of deliberations, following the week-long trial.

His former co-presenters Anthea Turner and Fern Britton were his character witnesses in the trial.

Mr Leslie told the jury he could not remember being at the party, and described the single allegation of sexual assault from 5 December 2008 as "crazy" and "ludicrous".

Giving evidence, he said: "I would not have touched her like some mannequin and walked off."

He told the jury he had previously been made out to be an "aggressive, sexual monster" by the tabloid press.

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
The jury returned a not guilty verdict on Monday after 23 minutes of deliberations

Mr Leslie said his life changed in 2002 when he was wrongly identified on live television as the unnamed alleged rapist in his former girlfriend Ulrika Jonsson's autobiography.

Presenter Matthew Wright later apologised, saying he named him in error, the court was told.

Ms Jonsson has never made any complaint to police, the jury heard.

In court

By Helena Wilkinson, BBC News Correspondent

The jury took just 23-minutes to reach their verdict.

As the court reassembled John Leslie was asked to stand to hear the foreman say they'd found him not guilty of one count of sexual assault.

On hearing those words the former Blue Peter presenter began to sob in the dock.

His father, Les Stott, who's attended court every day with his son, punched the air before he too broke down in tears.

The two of them hugged and cried before they left.

Mr Leslie, from Edinburgh, said there had never been any sexual assault allegations against him before his name was wrongly linked to the book, and described the fallout as "Armageddon".

He said the tabloids "decided I was their man", and there had been "adverts for women to come forward with allegations".

Mr Leslie, whose full name is John Leslie Stott, told the jury he had become reclusive, paranoid, depressed and suicidal amid the allegations, saying: "I lost everything."

In 2003, two charges of indecent assault against him made by one woman were dropped, and not guilty verdicts were recorded at Southwark Crown Court.

After Monday's verdict, Judge Deborah Taylor said: "Mr Stott, you for the second time leave this court without a stain on your character and I hope it will be the last time you have to attend."

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