Paul Hollywood has criticised trolls who target Great British Bake Off contestants online, warning: "This can damage people."

The TV judge previously came to the defence of 2020 finalist Laura Adlington, blasting the "disgusting behaviour" of online bullies.

Ahead of the new series of the hit Channel 4 show, Hollywood said he has also faced abuse online and has become used to it but still gets upset, adding that show contestants are "raw, they're new, they're not used to this".

He said: "I had to come out last year in support of Laura, because it was out of order.

"It had gone out of control, and it is so easy in lockdown when people have got nothing else to do, and all they're going to do is bombard someone they're not particularly happy with. And you can't feed into people like that, you've got to be really careful - and so I had to say something.

"I think, ultimately, you're always going to get sides, you know? It's like football - you're always going to get one side against another. But I think, ultimately, as long as you support them, and Bake Off do, I saw what was happening and I had to say something."

The Great British Bake Off returns to Channel 4 next Tuesday, 21 September

He added: "It is difficult. Ultimately, I've had to deal with a lot of stuff. It is what it is, there's a backlash and you get used to it to a point, but it still upsets me.

"I'm a judge on a baking show; I'm not a politician, I'm not anything else - I'm just a baker and I get bombarded with stuff that I shouldn't be bombarded with.

"So, I've learned to live with it, however difficult it is. But it's not fair on the bakers because they're raw, they're new, they're not used to this, and you've got to be really careful.

"This can damage people, this [can] really, really hurt people, and I think you've got to be really careful. There'll be a backlash and you just don't want it, it's not fair."

Hollywood's fellow judge Prue Leith continued: "It's such a pity, especially with a show like Bake Off, which is generally friendly.

"And I think the audience love it because nobody's trying to get one over on somebody, nobody is trying to cheat or diss each other - the bakers are supportive to each other, we try to support the bakers.

The Great British Bake Off returns to Channel 4 on 21 September.

Source: Press Association

Click here for more television news.