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BBC star admits sex abuse as Britain wonders who's next

British broadcaster Stuart Hall leaves Preston Magistrates court in Preston, northern England February 7, 2013. Hall was charged with rape a
British broadcaster Stuart Hall leaves Preston Magistrates court in Preston, northern England February 7, 2013. Hall was charged with rape a

By Michael Holden

LONDON (Reuters) - Veteran BBC broadcaster Stuart Hall pleaded guilty to sex offences on Thursday, the latest British TV star from the 1970s and 1980s to be embroiled in abuse allegations.

Hall, 83, who was best known for hosting the family TV show "It's a Knockout" and was still working for the BBC as a soccer radio commentator until recently, admitted 14 counts of indecent offences against young girls over two decades, with the youngest victim aged just nine.

"Whether in public or private, Hall would first approach under friendly pretences and then bide his time until the victim was isolated," said Nazir Afzal, Chief Crown Prosecutor in northwest England.

"He can only be described as an opportunistic predator."

Hall's admission follows a scandal centered on the late Jimmy Savile, an eccentric former BBC TV presenter who police said in January had committed sex crimes on an unprecedented scale and was suspected of more than 200 offences.

The revelations about Savile, one of the BBC's biggest stars during the 1970s and 1980s and who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth, rocked the public broadcaster and heralded subsequent allegations against a procession of ageing, high-profile names.

On Wednesday, William Roache, the world's longest serving TV soap actor according to Guinness World Records, was charged with two counts of rape against a 15-year-old girl.

Roache, 81, who has played womanizer Ken Barlow in the ITV soap opera "Coronation Street" since its first episode in 1960, is accused of attacking the girl in 1967.

While neither the cases of Hall nor Roache were directly linked to the Savile case, the police inquiry into sex crimes has shocked Britons.

Last week, celebrity publicist Max Clifford, 70, whose clients have included "The X Factor" reality TV creator Simon Cowell, was charged by police after he was accused of 11 offences of indecent assault between 1966 and 1985.

Australian children's entertainer Rolf Harris, 83, who once painted the queen's portrait, former BBC radio DJ Dave Lee Travis, 67 - praised by Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi for keeping her entertained during her years of house arrest - and comedian Freddie Starr, 70, are among those arrested.

Clifford and others who have spoken out publicly or through their lawyers have denied any wrongdoing.

Media commentator Roy Greenslade said he expected the successful prosecution of Hall would lead to even more women coming forward with allegations.

"My first thought on hearing this string of arrests was that the police couldn't possibly effect prosecutions that would succeed because of the length of time between the offence having happened and now," he told Reuters.

Greenslade said the historic offences reflected the fact people in the 1960s and 1970s had ignored "sexual shenanigans".

"It does seem to me that we as a society in the 1960s, we didn't let this concern us too much," he said.

(Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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