Former TV presenter John Leslie accused police of withholding crucial CCTV footage that eventually led to him being cleared of sexual assault.
Leslie, 53, who fronted This Morning between 1999 and 2002, returned to the ITV show for the first time in 16 years to discuss his ‘year of hell’ after he was accused of assaulting a bride-to-be on her hen do in an Edinburgh nightclub in June last year.
The ex-Blue Peter star was eventually cleared following a trial last month and his case found ‘not proven’ thanks to CCTV footage of the alleged incident.
It comes after he accused ex-girlfriend Ulrika Jonsson of ‘lighting a fire’ over rape rumours made against him in the early 2003.
Speaking today in his first interview since the most recent sexual assault allegations, Leslie told Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby that he believed police had withheld the footage.
He said: ‘[Police] charged me without viewing the CCTV, which was outrageous…
‘It was reasonable doubt and that’s enough for court. It never should have gone to court… When the police got hold of the CCTV eventually – five days after [the alleged incident] – they then didn’t send it to the Crown, they withheld it.’
It comes after a number of rape cases in England and Wales collapsed in quick succession when it emerged that police and prosecutors had failed to pass key information to defence teams.
Leslie was replaced by Phillip Schofield as presenter of This Morning after sexual assault allegations were made against him in 2002.
He was arrested on suspicion of raping one woman and assaulting two others. Leslie denied every allegation.
Two further sexual assault claims followed: one in 2008 – relating to an incident following a party in 1995 – and the other in 2015 when he is said to have assaulted a woman at a radio awards party while working as a local DJ. Both were investigated by police and then dropped.
Leslie also found himself in the headlines after former weather girl Ulrika Jonsson, whom Leslie had dated over several weeks in 1988, released a 2003 autobiography in which she claimed a TV presenter had raped her around the same time.
While she has never named her attacker, there was frenzied speculation it was Leslie – speculation Jonsson failed to quell, even when a Channel 5 presenter blurted it aloud.
‘It absolutely was not me,’ he told the Mail On Sunday of Jonsson’s alleged assailant. ‘She was one of my first proper girlfriends in London and I didn’t attack her. When my name was first mentioned, I wanted to say, “Ulrika and I were in a relationship, these are the things we did”.
‘I just hope she regrets doing what she did. It was brutal. Unforgivable, really. I think it impacted her career just as badly, in a way.
‘She lit a fire and it went out of control. I haven’t spoken to her since. What could you say?’
Speaking today, Leslie admitted that he went ‘off the rails’ as he found fame in the 1980s and 1990s but insisted that he had never done anything illegal.
He explained his behaviour by comparing himself to Love Island contestants Alex George and Adam Collard.
He said: ‘I’ve thought about this long and hard. You obviously watch Love Island. I view Love Island now. There’s characters in there I identify with – Dr Alex, Adam and Jack.
‘As a boy I was a Dr Alex, very uncomfortable around women, they didn’t take notice of me, I was a bit of a geek. Left school with no experience of sex at all.
‘I became an Adam overnight with all these women giving me attention and I couldn’t handle it. It was too much. I know I was a bit of an idiot at times but I wasn’t assaulting assaulting anybody.
‘Things got out of hand and I went off the rails a bit. I was too much of a party boy and there was too much to handle.’
In June last year, Leslie was once again investigated by police after a woman celebrating her hen party in Edinburgh’s Atik nightclub claimed he had put his hand down the back of her trousers while she was dancing with him.
Leslie today recounted how the night in question had unfolded, saying he had danced a ‘slow waltz’ with the woman as he was so wary of his actions being misconstrued.
But on his way out of the nightclub he was stopped by a bouncer who told him there had been an allegation of sexual assault made against him.
Leslie, who had been attending a VIP opening of the nightspot, said he was initially confident the incident would be swiftly resolved as he ‘knew the club had CCTV’.
He said: [I told staff] “You’ll have to look at the CCTV and you’ll see the dance was entirely appropriate”. But they said they can’t take it any further because the police have been called. It was then getting ridiculous.
‘The police came, there were four in the room and I said, “Will somebody please look at the CCTV?” and they said, “We’re not authorised to do that”, dragged me off, put me back in a van, chucked me in a cell for ten hours.
‘In the morning detectives spoke to me said, “It’s going to be fine John, don’t worry, but we are going to charge you with touching a lady’s bottom during a dance”, and I said, “Well have you looked at the CCTV? You don’t have enough evidence”.’
Leslie continued: ‘I was still in a state of shock – the fact that it had gone that far and that they had charged me so soon without doing any investigation for my side of the story. And to charge me without viewing the CCTV I found outrageous.
‘It should never have gone to court. I kept it from my mum and dad because I knew if the media found out, they would go for me again because I was such a target for them, and that’s exactly what happened.’
The case came before Edinburgh’s Sheriff Court last month where experts said Leslie’s DNA was found on the back waistband of the trousers, but could have been transferred by indirect contact.
It was CCTV from the club, dug up by Leslie’s defence team, which cast doubt on the woman’s claim.
Speaking to the Mail On Sunday, Leslie said: ‘We’d secured the CCTV footage and although it wasn’t great, it showed my hand for the whole three minutes and ten seconds of the dance near as damn it in the same position, with twirls, separation, and her hands round my neck pulling me towards her.
‘It was obvious gold dust for us and really important.’
Ultimately, Sheriff Adrian Cottam found the case not proven. While he said the woman’s evidence appeared credible, he concluded the evidence seen all together caused reasonable doubt.
Speaking on This Morning, Leslie added that he had been left ‘in bits’ over the allegations and that his primary focus was on ‘surviving’.
He said: ‘I can’t believe I’m back here. It’s quite emotional. This Morning is where my career ended…. I just wanted a quiet life and I was quite happy living my own life away from the media.
‘I became a kind of target and when I was out in public, things happened and people made allegations and stuff and I never got the chance to speak out. So, when it happened this time I felt enough is enough, it has to stop.’
Leslie also said it was time for a change in the law that allows for those accused of sexual assault to be named from the outset.
‘I am living proof that it’s got to stop,’ he said. ‘You can’t have your life ruined on the back of false allegations… I’m all for one being named if being charged, but I don’t think you should be named if found not guilty. T
‘here has to be a level of proof before your life is ruined. It’s not just people in media, there are innocent men and women being named and shamed because of false allegations that are becoming too prevalent now… both sides should be believed, at the moment the pendulum has swung far too much in favour for the accuser.’