In September 2001 King was convicted, after a two-week trial at the Old Bailey, on four counts of indecent assault, one of buggery and one of attempted buggery, committed between 1983 and 1987 against five boys aged 14 and 15. In a second trial he was found not guilty after an alleged victim (someone King denied having ever met) acknowledged that he could have been 16 or older at the time. Three further trials that had been scheduled were ordered abandoned.[d] King continued to maintain his innocence throughout, protesting, among other things, that the lack of a statute of limitations in the UK for sex offences meant he had been unable to defend himself adequately because of the many years that had passed.
The National Criminal Intelligence Service had begun investigating King for child sexual abuse in 2000, when a man told them he had been assaulted by King and others 30 years earlier. The man had originally approached publicist Max Clifford, himself later jailed in 2014 for sexual assault, about other men; Clifford told him that he needed to include a celebrity in his allegations and that he should go to the police. King was arrested in November that year and bailed on £150,000, £50,000 of which was put up by Simon Cowell. He was arrested again in January 2001 on further allegations. Twenty-seven men told police that King had sexually assaulted them during the period 1969–1989. Police found pictures of teenagers in a search of King’s home. King admitted having approached thousands of people with questionnaires about youth interests, doing market research. The questionnaires asked recipients to list topics according to importance including music, sport, friends and family; the prosecution claimed that boys who listed sex high in their list of priorities were then targeted by King.
After the second trial at the Old Bailey on 21 November 2001, Judge David Paget QC sentenced King to 7 years in prison using the first trial verdict as a sample for “all previous sexual behaviour”. In addition, King was placed on the Sex Offenders Register, prohibited from working with children, and ordered to pay £14,000 costs.[e] In 2003 the Court of Appeal rejected his application to appeal both the conviction and the sentence; he had argued that the conviction was unsafe and the sentence, with guidelines of two years, had been “manifestly too severe”. He appealed twice unsuccessfully to the Criminal Cases Review Commission, and was released on parole in March 2005, strongly proclaiming his innocence.
King has complained about his media coverage since his 2001 conviction. In 2005 he went to the Press Complaints Commission about an article in the News of the World that said he had gone to a park to “ogle” boys. In fact he had gone there at the request of a documentary maker. The complaint was not upheld, but Roy Greenslade argued that King had a good case. In October 2011 then BBC Director-General Mark Thompson apologised to King for the removal of King’s performance of “It Only Takes a Minute” from a repeat, on BBC Four, of a 1976 episode of Top of the Pops. King described the cut as a “Stalinist revision approach to history”. When asked by a newspaper in 2012 if he believed he had anything to apologise for, to anybody from his past, King replied, “The only apology I have is to say that I was good at seduction. I was good at making myself seem attractive when I wasn’t very attractive at all”. He appeared in front of the Leveson Inquiry.
On 20 June 2020 King posted on Twitter a photo of a letter from the Metropolitan Police confirming that he had been removed from the Sex Offenders Register the previous day..
Journalist Robert Chalmers wrote that King’s creative output after he left prison “resembled a primal scream of rage”. Two novels appeared: Beware the Monkey Man (2010), under the pen name Rex Kenny, and Death Flies, Missing Girls and Brigitte Bardot (2013), under his real name, Kenneth George King. He also published a diary, Three Months (2012), and two volumes of his autobiography, Jonathan King 65: My Life So Far (2009) and 70 FFFY (2014).
King maintained an interest in prison issues and writes a column for Inside Time, the national newspaper for prisoners.
He released Earth to King in 2008. One of the new songs on the album, “The True Story of Harold Shipman” was about the serial killer Dr. Harold Shipman, in which King suggested that Shipman may have been a victim of the media. He also produced three films. Vile Pervert: The Musical (2008), available for free download, is a 96-minute film in which King plays all 21 parts and presents his version of events surrounding his prosecution. He portrays his viewpoint of the events responsible for his troubles. In one scene King, dressed as Oscar Wilde, sings that there is “nothing wrong with buggering boys”. Rod Liddle called it “a fantastically berserk, bravado performance”. Me Me Me (2011) was described at the Cannes Film Festival as “a re-telling of Romeo and Juliet“. The Pink Marble Egg (2013) is a spy story; for publicity King drove down the Promenade de la Croisette in Cannes with a pink papier-mâché egg on top of his Rolls Royce during the Cannes Film Festival.
In August 2015, King wrote an article for The Spectator magazine concerning Sir Edward Heath, the subject of the now-discredited Operation Midland. In September 2015, King was arrested as part of Operation Ravine, a further investigation into claims of sexual abuse at the Walton Hop disco in the 1970s. He was later released on bail. On 25 May 2017, he was charged by Surrey Police with 18 sexual offences, relating to nine boys aged between 14 and 16, allegedly carried out between 1970 and 1986. He was released on bail and appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on 26 June, where he was released on conditional bail to appear at Southwark Crown Court on 31 July. His trial began on 11 June 2018, and on 27 June the jury was discharged for legal reasons.
On 6 August 2018, King received an apology for the collapse of the trial, with Judge Deborah Taylor saying that Surrey Police had made “numerous, repeated and compounded” errors during the investigation, describing the situation as a “debacle”. In her ruling she said “I have concluded that this is a case where even if it were possible to have a fair trial, it is in the rare category where the balance, taking account of the history, the failures and misleading of the Court, is in favour of a stay on the basis that following what has occurred, continuation would undermine public confidence in the administration of justice”. Taylor said that the case against King had been motivated by “concerns about reputational damage to Surrey Police” following the allegations of sexual abuse against Jimmy Savile. Surrey Police “wholeheartedly apologised” to King, saying: “We deeply regret that despite these efforts we did not meet the required standards to ensure a fair trial.” King refused to accept the apology, and criticised Surrey Police for “deep, institutional faults”. He urged both the Chief Constable and the Police and Crime Commissioner to go.
After the “debacle”, as Judge Taylor described the 2018 trial, many respected commentators started to question the verdict of the 2001 trial including Bob Woffinden in his book The Nicholas Cases and Daniel Finkelstein in The Times; the Criminal Cases Review Commission announced it was reopening an investigation into it, after fresh evidence emerged during the 2018 prosecution.
In August 2019 Chief Constable Stephens, who had replaced Ephgrave, announced that, in the year since King’s acquittal, the Surrey Police success rate for convictions in sex abuse cases had dropped from 20% to “under 4%”. On 22 November 2019, an independent review into the police investigation leading to the trial was published. It was critical of the handling of disclosure of documents to King’s defence prior to the trial, and questioned whether some of the staff involved had been qualified or experienced enough to handle the case.