07/05/2014 10:53 BST | Updated 07/05/2014 11:59 BST

Stuart Hall 'Plied Girls With Drink And Raped Them In His BBC Dressing Room', Trial Hears

Stuart Hall plied two young girls with drink and repeatedly raped them more than 35 years ago, including in his BBC studio dressing room in Manchester, his trial has heard.

The former It's A Knockout presenter has pleaded not guilty to 20 allegations of rape and indecent assault he currently faces.

At Preston Crown Court on Wednesday, prosecutor Peter Wright told the jury: "You will hear that he, a man in his forties, and they, on his account, aged 15 or 16, engaged in what he asserts was consensual sexual activity.

Stuart Hall, pictured at a previous hearing last year, denies 20 allegations of rape and indecent assault

"It happened, we say, not because they found this middle-aged man who was almost three times their age sexually attractive.

"It happened because each of them was at the time emotionally and physically extremely vulnerable by reason of their situation and age."

Last year, Hall pleaded guilty at the same court to 14 offences of indecent assault against 13 girls or young women and was jailed for 15 months. The sentence was later increased to 30 months at the Court of Appeal.

Hall's barrister Crispin Aylett told the jury: "The defendant says in his pleas of not guilty that whatever his shortcomings, whatever he has done - and none of this should have happened - he says 'I am not a rapist', and that in due course is the issue you will have to decide.

"To people of a certain age, Stuart Hall will be known as the presenter of It's A Knockout, a good-natured TV programme in which members of the public cheerfully made fools of themselves on camera.

"And to you in the North West you will remember him as the presenter of Look North West, a (BBC) evening regional news programme which sought to entertain and inform.

"To a younger generation of sports fans you will know him as a rather flamboyant and eccentric football commentator.

"But to everyone now, Stuart Hall is simply a convicted paedophile who at the end of each court day goes back to his prison cell.

"And you - a jury of 12 who know who he is and what he has done - you are trying him on 20 counts of sexual assault, including 15 of rape."

He said it was the prosecution's case that he groomed the two girls, plied them with drink and controlled them for his own sexual purposes.

"That is one side of the coin," said Mr Aylett.

He added "the other side" was that Girl A, on her own account, between the ages of 14 and 15, had sexual intercourse with him in which she repeatedly went to his BBC dressing room "to be submitted to yet another rape".

"Is that how it was?" he asked the jury.

He posed the same question with Girl B, saying she would met up with him "again and again" to be given alcohol and be sexually abused.

All the allegations Hall faces came under the Sexual Offences Act 1956. That act provided for offences of rape and indecent assault but also unlawful sexual intercourse with a girl under 16, Mr Aylett said.

It also provided for an offence of unlawful sexual intercourse with a girl under aged 13.

The barrister said: "It means that the people who drafted that legislation envisaged a situation, repugnant and bizarre as it may seem, where someone under the age of 13 could have consented to intercourse.

"That was in force until 2003. We now have new legislation. Of course, it is still an offence to have sexual activity with a young girl under the age of 16 but she can still consent.

"So the 1956 Act with which we are concerned did provide for an offence of having unlawful sex with a girl under the age of 16. Somewhere between rape and consent."

He said the above law also came with an "important restriction" - a 12-month limit when a complaint could be made from the time of the offence.

Mr Aylett said if Hall had been investigated for these offences between 1978 and 1981, he would have been guilty of unlawful sex with a girl under 16.

He said: "Unfortunately, rightly or wrongly, there is a prohibition from bringing such a charge 30 years or so down the line.

"You have to consider the question of whether or not in each instance the complainant has consented to, or might have consented to, sexual intercourse with Stuart Hall. And even if they did not, whether the defendant might reasonably have thought they were consenting.

"In that event, he would be not guilty of rape and it would not be open to you to return verdicts of unlawful intercourse with a girl under the age of 16 because it was too long after the event."

The trial continues.