UK

Max Clifford jailed for eight years for sex assaults

  • 2 May 2014
  • From the section UK
Max Clifford outside court Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Clifford posed for the cameras before he was sentenced and throughout his trial

Disgraced celebrity publicist Max Clifford has been jailed for a total of eight years for a string of indecent assaults against girls and young women.

On Monday the 71-year-old became the first person to be convicted under Operation Yewtree.

Sentencing the PR man, Judge Anthony Leonard said he had groomed and degraded his victims.

Judge Leonard ruled Clifford should serve his eight sentences of between six and 24 months consecutively.

He said that Clifford - whose lawyer later said an appeal was being considered - should serve at least half his total sentence in jail.

The judge said some of the offences would be charged as rape if they had happened today.

After hearing his sentence, Clifford turned off his phone, took off his hearing loop, turned to friends in the seats behind him and smiled, before being led to the cells.

Earlier, the court had heard how Clifford's abuse changed the course of the four women's lives.

In statements read out by the prosecution, one victim - who was 15 at the time - revealed how she had missed out on having her first sexual relationship with someone her own age because of what Clifford did.

Another said she would cry whenever she saw him on TV following the assault and feared police would laugh at her when she finally came forward.

Prosecuting barrister Rosina Cottage QC said one of the women felt she had "lost the last 20 years" of her life.

'Nobody is immune'

Speaking after the sentencing, the Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders said Clifford "thought he was able to abuse his position of power".

"People think they can be immune somehow because of the positions they are in. And there is a very clear message here. Nobody is immune, nobody is above the law and it doesn't matter when things happened, we will prosecute when we have the evidence to do so."

Children's charity the NSPCC tweeted: "Max Clifford thought no-one would believe his victims. He was wrong. This sentence proves victims of non-recent abuse can get justice."

Director Peter Watt added: "It's clear the judge has recognised the pain and suffering Clifford caused and the additional distress he put his victims through by forcing them to relive their ordeal in court."

Adam Pemberton, assistant chief executive at Victim Support, said: "This prison term reflects the impact the crimes Max Clifford committed has on his victims and the courage they showed in finding the strength to give evidence against him.

"We should not forget it was the compelling testimony of the women Clifford abused many years ago which convicted him even as he tried to claim they were liars and fantasists."

Image copyright PA
Image caption The judge said Clifford would serve at least half his sentence in jail

Charity work

In comments before he handed down the sentence, Mr Leonard said he had learned about Clifford standing behind a television journalist who had been reporting on the guilty verdict outside court.

The judge said Clifford had "mimicked his actions in a way that was designed to trivialise these events".

"I find your behaviour to be quite extraordinary and a further indication that you show no remorse", he said.

He told Clifford the sentence would take into account "this additional element of trauma caused by your contemptuous attitude".

Judge Leonard said Clifford led a double life and referred to his charity work and care for his disabled daughter.

But he concluded: "Whilst at the trial you were able to rely on your good character, on the jury's verdicts you lost your good character in 1977 when you were aged 34."

Judge Leonard said he was sure that, in addition to the charges on which he was convicted, Clifford had assaulted a 12-year-old girl in Spain.

While the details of how he was alleged to have abused the girl in a whirlpool bath were revealed during the trial, Clifford could not be prosecuted over the incident because it took place before offences that happened abroad could be pursued in the British courts.

The woman was in court to see the sentence handed down and cried when the judge raised her case.

The BBC's home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw said more complainants were believed to have come forward during the trial, and police and the Crown Prosecution Service were discussing how to proceed.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Police released Clifford's custody mugshot once sentencing was over

Speaking outside the court, Det Ch Insp Michael Orchard, the senior investigating officer in the case, praised the victims' bravery and said the publicity had persuaded more alleged victims to come forward.

He added: "As a result of high-profile cases such as these we have seen a significant increase in the number of sexual abuse allegations reported to police."

Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders said that, as well as those involving famous figures, there were regular convictions for historic sex abuse "up and down the country" which generate less publicity.

Image copyright PA
Image caption OJ Simpson was one of Clifford's most controversial clients

The Crown Prosecution Service applied "the same tests in every case no matter who the defendant is", she added.

Clifford was a key player in the British media in the 1990s and 2000s, orchestrating tabloid revelations about the sex lives of politicians, including David Mellor and John Prescott, sporting figures such as David Beckham and Sven-Goran Eriksson, and actors including Jude Law.

The judge handed down the following sentences:

  • Twelve months and 18 months relating to a girl who said Clifford abused her on a number of occasions after he met her family on holiday in Torremolinos in Spain in 1977 when she was 15. She claimed he would go to her house, impressing her parents and speaking about how he could make her a star, before taking her out in his car and molesting her
  • Two terms of 24 months (each to be served concurrently to each other but consecutively to the other sentences) relating to the same girl
  • Six months relating to a woman, who was an extra in the film Octopussy, who claimed she was targeted at Clifford's office in 1981 or 1982, aged 19. After she had spoken on the phone to a man claiming to be actor Charles Bronson, Clifford pinned her down on a sofa but she fought him off
  • Six months and 21 months (to be served concurrently to each other but consecutively to the other sentences) relating to a girl who was an aspiring model who went to Clifford's office in the early 1980s, when she was in her late teens. She said Clifford groped her and tried to force her to perform a sex act
  • Fifteen months relating to a woman who was an 18-year-old dancer when Clifford took her into a nightclub toilet in the early 1980s and forced her to touch him intimately, saying: "Who is going to believe you?"

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