An award-winning broadcaster has told a court she was devastated by a “completely transphobic” video posted online by an ex-BBC Radio DJ accused of stalking former colleagues and TV star Jeremy Vine.
Stephanie Hirst, who took over Alex Belfield’s slot at BBC Radio Leeds seven years after he left, said she believes videos, emails and tweets posted by him after her gender transition had been “targeted” abuse.
Giving evidence against Mr Belfield, who denies stalking Ms Hirst after sending her a critical Facebook message in 2017, she said she had been “basically slated, parodied, for no reason at all”.
The former Radio Aire, Minster FM, Hallam FM, Capital, BBC Radio Leeds and BBC Radio Manchester presenter told Nottingham Crown Court she had only met Mr Belfield in person once, at a theatre in West Yorkshire in around 2010.
Commenting on Mr Belfield’s emails, tweets and videos, Ms Hirst said he became “very negative and very anti-me, very transphobic in the language” when she joined BBC Radio Leeds in 2018.
“Tweets, lots of them, came my way,” she told the court.
Ms Hirst, who also works as a public speaker, added: “One of the major upsetting things in all of this is it’s a fellow broadcaster.
“It’s from someone who is meant to be in your corner. He was trying to kick me whilst I was trying to claw my way back up.
“He was banging a drum like Animal from The Muppets – ‘You shouldn’t hire her, get her off the station’.”
In April 2018, the court heard, a video was uploaded to YouTube by Mr Belfield days after Ms Hirst gave an interview about her transition to Pink News.
Referring to the video, which was shown to the jury, Ms Hirst said: “It was completely transphobic, targeted towards me… just all of it is a parody of me.”
Ms Hirst said she was aghast that Mr Belfield was aggrieved at the fact he had been removed from a show in 2011 and had contacted her seven years later.
The complainant added: “What has that got to do with me in 2018? I have done nothing wrong – not one single thing wrong.
“I found some strength to be my true self… and for it I was basically slated, parodied for no reason at all.”
Asked how the messages, including emails to her managers sent while she was broadcasting, had made her feel, Ms Hirst said: “It kicks you in the stomach and tears you apart because it’s a fellow broadcaster who understood fundamentally the emotions that you go through on the air.
“You give your all as a broadcaster.
“To have someone who works in the industry tear you apart and share that, and Cc in the powers that be whilst you are trying to claw your way back as a broadcaster is devastating.
“It gets inside your head. It was just devastating.”
Asked by prosecutor John McGuinness QC to tell the jury about the effect of Mr Belfield’s emails, videos and tweets since 2018, Ms Hirst replied: “I have been publicly ridiculed.
“He seems to think that I replaced him.
“I didn’t. There were two or three other presenters in between and seven or eight years.
“It’s degrading. It made me feel worthless. It’s a constant soundtrack inside your mind. I have had nothing but support from the general public – the British public – and all of my friends and family.”
Adding that she had received “virtually zero hate” from others, she said: “The only person was the defendant who was constantly finding fault.
“It was constant – there was no escape from it. It was heartbreaking.”
Mr Belfield’s trial has heard he repeatedly posted or sent mocking and abusive social media messages, videos and emails after his one-year contract was not renewed by BBC Radio Leeds in 2011.
Prosecutors allege the 42-year-old caused serious alarm or distress to Channel 5 and BBC Radio 2 presenter Mr Vine, Ms Hirst, BBC Radio Northampton’s Bernie Keith and five others.
Mr Vine gave evidence to the jury last week, describing Mr Belfield as “the Jimmy Savile of trolling” and saying the YouTuber’s output was “like swimming in sewage”.
Mr Belfield, of Mapperley, Nottingham, denies eight counts of stalking allegedly committed between 2012 and 2021.
During questioning of a police witness following Ms Hirst’s evidence, Mr Belfield said the trial is “about free speech” and alleged officers had pushed their way into his home and “stolen” his property, including a laptop, phone and a microphone.