The shaming of Britain’s Mr Sleaze

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IOL BRITAIN-ABUSE-_0428_11 REUTERS Publicist Max Clifford is surrounded by photographers as he leaves Southwark Crown Court in central London after he found guilty of eight charges of indecently assaulting teenagers over nearly 20 years. Picture: Andrew Winning

London - A smirking Max Clifford on Monday night faced jail after he was convicted of a vile campaign of sexual abuse against teenage girls.

For the man never shy of supplying a quote in a 50-year PR career, he was silent when his downfall came and refused to apologise to his victims as he posed for pictures outside court.

Over more than three decades, the millionaire publicist groomed and molested schoolgirls in his yellow Jaguar and young models in his office, threatening them: “No one will believe you.”

Charged with 11 counts of indecent assault, he was found guilty of eight. He was cleared on two other counts, and the jury failed to reach a verdict on another.

On Monday night, one of the schoolgirls he molested told the Daily Mail: “It took me and other victims many years to pluck up the courage to seek justice. We were young innocent victims of a powerful, manipulative and dishonest man whom, over the years, we saw become crowned king of the kiss-and-tell industry.”

Sources close to Clifford, who spent £250 000 on his defence, said he had been urged by close associates several months ago to plead guilty. But he had insisted on fighting them, convinced he might go free.

By doing so, he prolonged the agony of his victims who were forced to relive their ordeals in the witness box.

Clifford is the first celebrity to be convicted under Operation Yewtree, the £2.7 million Scotland Yard investigation sparked by the death of Jimmy Savile.

The guilty verdicts will be seen as at least partial vindication by the Crown Prosecution Service for its controversial pursuit of 1970s celebrities, following a string of recent acquittals.

Clifford was branded a grade-A paedophile and “every little girl’s worst nightmare” during his eight-week trial at London’s Southwark Crown Court.

The PR agent, who turned 71 during the case, sat emotionless in the dock wearing an open-necked shirt as the verdicts were given.

His disabled 42-year-old daughter Louise also showed no emotion in the public gallery – she had given evidence in his defence, but prosecutors said she was tainted by her blind loyalty to her father.

Freed on bail, outside court Clifford was asked repeatedly if he would say “sorry” to his victims. He smiled awkwardly but said, uncharacteristically, that his lawyers had told him “to say nothing at all”.

Clifford had denied all the allegations and called his victims “mentally disturbed” fantasists hunting compensation. Their accusations were “a fairy story that only you believe”, he had snapped to the prosecutor.

But after nine days of deliberations, the jury of six men and four women believed the women, finding Clifford guilty of eight counts of indecent assault: Four against a 15-year-old in 1977, one on a 19-year-old in 1981 or 1982, two against a 17-year-old in 1982 or 1983, and one on an 18-year-old in the early 1980s.

He was cleared of another two allegations – one 18-year-old who said she was pushed up against a wall in his central London offices when he groped her and kissed her in 1975, and another, aged 19, who claimed she was groped in a taxi in 1979.

The jury could not reach a verdict on a count involving a woman who claimed he groped her in his car after meeting her at a Wimpy bar in South London in 1966.

In fact, there were 23 victims who came forward to police, but prosecutors decided to proceed with what they perceived to be the seven strongest cases.

Clifford will be sentenced on Friday. The maximum sentence for indecent assault was two years at the time the offences were committed. He was bailed on the condition he spends nights at his £3.5million Surrey mansion.

The judge told him: “You must realise that the fact I have given you bail is no indication of what the final sentence will be.”

On Monday night, Jenny Hopkins, Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor for London, said the verdicts “provide a long-denied justice to the victims of serious sexual offences”.

Many of the victims had told family or friends about their assaults up to 40 years ago, showing they had not made them up in what Clifford termed ‘the current climate’.

From his twenties to his forties, the manipulative fixer boasted of his celebrity contacts to snare naïve young women, promising to make them Bond girls or leading ladies in Hollywood movies. He played mind games with his victims, using hoax phone calls to trick them into thinking they were speaking to famous directors.

He treated his New Bond Street offices as his “sexual fiefdom” and wandered around naked demanding sordid favours from visitors and secretaries alike.

Womanising Clifford’s extraordinary defence was that he enjoyed so much sex by cheating on his first wife Liz with numerous mistresses that he did not need to abuse anyone. He attended orgies with sex siren Diana Dors and was later the “ringmaster” host of his own “good honest filth” parties.

Like Savile, he used his lifetime of “tireless” charity work to mask his true colours as a sexual predator.

Clifford’s refusal to accept his guilt was his downfall. After his initial arrest in 2012, he said “anyone who really knew me all those years ago” would know he was innocent. Instead, it provoked more women to come forward and seal his fate.

To complete his humiliation, the size of Clifford’s penis became a central feature of the case, with one woman calling it “freakishly small”.

Daily Mail



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