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British TV star admits abuse charges

Stuart Hall was charged in an investigation into allegations that go back as long as 50 years.

Stuart Hall was charged in an investigation into allegations that go back as long as 50 years.

LONDON — An elderly British television and radio personality has admitted to 14 counts of sexually abusing girls age 9 to 17 decades ago, it emerged Thursday. The broadcaster, Stuart Hall, 83, pleaded guilty to the charges last month, but the news media was barred from reporting the plea until now.

Hall, a familiar figure on radio and television in a career spanning five decades, was first arrested in December and questioned as part of Operation Yewtree, a far-reaching criminal investigation into allegations of sexual abuse from as long as 50 years ago.

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He initially denied the charges, calling them ‘‘pernicious, callous, cruel, and, above all, spurious.’’

His crimes, prosecutors say, took place between 1967 and 1986 and included putting his hands under the clothes of a 9-year-old girl, groping a 16-year-old girl’s breasts, and kissing a 13-year-old girl on the lips while telling her it was a way to ‘‘show thanks.’’

Hall had also been charged with raping a 22-year-old woman in 1976, and was to have faced a separate trial.

But after he pleaded guilty to the other charges, prosecutors said Thursday, the rape charge was withdrawn when the complainant in the case decided she did not want to give evidence in court.

A dozen well-known figures from the entertainment world, mostly men in their 70s and 80s, have been identified as suspects in Yewtree.

Hall, known mainly as the host of the game show ‘‘It’s a Knockout’’ and as a witty sports commentator, is the first to admit any wrongdoing.

Two of the other suspects have been formally charged with crimes; the rest are facing further questioning while prosecutors decide whether to charge them.

It is notoriously hard to secure convictions in sexual assault cases, particularly ones from long ago.

Nazir Afzal, chief crown prosecutor for the North West, said Thursday that in Stuart’s case, a number of women came forward with similar accusations, establishing a pattern of behavior.

“His victims did not know each other, and almost two decades separated the first and last assaults, but almost all of the victims, including one who was only 9 at the time of the assault, provided strikingly similar accounts,’’ Afzal told reporters after Thursday’s hearing, in Preston Crown Court.

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