Gudrun Young successfully represents former Blue Peter presenter and TV celebrity John Leslie
Gudrun Young successfully represented former Blue Peter presenter and TV celebrity John Leslie, who was cleared of an allegation of sexual assault at Southwark Crown Court. The jury took just 23 minutes to unanimously acquit him of an allegation that in December 2008 he had grabbed a woman’s breasts at a Christmas party being held by the talent agency which represented him. The woman did not report the matter to the police at the time but came forward in December 2017, saying she had been prompted by the MeToo movement. In his defence, Leslie said that he had no clear memory of the party in question or of meeting the woman but was adamant he had never sexually assaulted anyone in his life.
John Leslie (whose full name is John Leslie Stott) told the jury how his hugely successful television career was brought to a dramatic end in October 2002 when he was wrongly named by Matthew Wright live on Channel 5 as having been the man Ulrika Jonsson claimed in a recently published autobiography had raped her 14 years before. She described her attacker as a TV presenter but declined to name him. Although Matthew Wright subsequently retracted his comment and has publicly apologised to John Leslie, the damage was done. Leslie told how he had become the target of a ruthless campaign in the tabloid press where he was painted as a sleazy sexual predator and how the papers ran adverts offering to pay women for stories about him. Fighting back tears, he described how his life had been blighted by false sexual allegations, almost driving him to suicide. One such allegation had resulted in him being charged in 2003 with indecent assault but the matter was dropped by the prosecution before the trial. Leslie recalled how he had attended the very same court building in 2003 with his then-girlfriend Abi Titmuss and was told by the judge that he could leave the court without a stain on his character. He hoped after that to be able to revive his career, but his reputation never recovered and he continued to be hounded by the press. Contrary to the image of him portrayed in the tabloids, Leslie told the jury he was someone who respected women and would never behave in that way.
Gudrun pointed out numerous inconsistencies in the complainant’s account and asked how it was possible for Leslie to have assaulted her in the manner described, in the middle of a crowded bar at a party, and for no one to have seen it. She also questioned why she did not report it at the time when Leslie was “famous not for his TV work, but for being a disgraced former celebrity, someone who had had a spectacular fall from grace in 2002” and whose name had become synonymous with accusations of this kind. It was suggested that the woman had been influenced by his reputation and inspired by the MeToo movement in the wrong way by making a false allegation.
Gudrun told the jury that by 2008 John Leslie was a broken man, whose career was in tatters and that he was extremely paranoid and anxious about false stories being sold about him. The idea that he would have brazenly gone up to a woman at a party and grabbed her breasts was “simply ludicrous”.
Friends and former colleagues of John Leslie’s including Anthea Turner, Yvette Fielding, Diane-Louise Jordan and Fern Britton gave powerful evidence at court on his behalf, describing him as a kind, decent and upstanding man, “a perfect gentleman, a million miles away from his public image”.
Following the verdict Leslie broke down in the dock. Her Honour Judge Taylor, trying the case, said at the end: “Mr Leslie Stott, for the second time you leave this court without a stain on your character and I hope you never have to appear again”.