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Monday, 28 April 2014
"Another Depraved Paedophile"
Max Clifford found guilty of indecently assaulting teenage girls
The publicist Max Clifford has been found guilty of eight charges of indecent assault against women and girls as young as 15 by a jury at Southwark crown court in London.
Clifford, 71, was convicted following a six-week trial that exposed the "terrible, festering secret" that he was a paedophile who bullied and manipulated teenage girls into performing sex acts.
After deliberating for 32 hours, jurors found Clifford guilty of eight counts of indecent assault between 1977 and 1985.
He was found not guilty of two other charges of indecent assault. The jury could not decide on one further count.
Clifford was granted conditional bail but told by the judge that that should not be taken as an indication of the sentence that would be passed on Friday.
Clifford showed no emotion as the guilty verdicts were returned. His daughter, Louise, also remained expressionless in the public gallery next to Clifford's office manager, who sat with her head in her hands.
The publicist left the courtroom without speaking to the press, hurrying into a private room with his legal team as his supporters – including several employees – waited outside, some in tears.
Once outside, Clifford refused to make a statement. "I've been told by my lawyers to say nothing at all."
One of his supporters nodded his head when asked whether Clifford was the victim of a witch hunt. Louise Clifford grew emotional and refused to speak when a journalist asked whether she would say anything about her father, before they were bundled past a battery of camera lenses into a waiting car.
The guilty verdicts make Clifford the first suspect to be prosecuted successfully under Scotland Yard's sprawling Operation Yewtree investigation, which was sparked by the Jimmy Savile scandal in late 2012 and has led to a spate of arrests but – until Monday – not one conviction.
Jenny Hopkins, deputy chief crown prosecutor for CPS London, said: "Today's verdicts provide a long-denied justice to the victims of serious sexual offences. I would like to thank these victims for having had the courage to come forward and give evidence. The victims of sexual abuse, whenever it may have taken place, should know that police and prosecutors will listen.
"It is only right that we now take some time to consider our position on the hung count and we will update the court accordingly."
Throughout the trial, the prosecution tried to convince the jury that Clifford was a "master in the art of intimidation and manipulation" who preyed on starstruck girls by promising to introduce them to the world of showbusiness in return for sexual favours.
The millionaire publicist, who has represented a string of stars in his five-decade career, used his New Bond Street office as his own "sexual fiefdom" and impersonated Hollywood icons to lure girls into his grasp, the court was told.
Clifford convinced one 18-year-old aspiring actor she could meet singer David Bowie if she performed a sex act, jurors heard. Another was said to have been promised a role in a James Bond film and he allegedly told a third he would secure her a role in Dynasty to repay her favours.
Summing up six weeks of evidence, Rosina Cottage QC, prosecuting, described Clifford as a risk-taker with an "arrogant confidence", urging jurors to reject the defence's claim that he was a "loving father" who had no interest in young girls.
"He has managed to portray himself in different ways to different people, but don't be fooled," Cottage said. "In every case his actions were sudden, unexpected and, frankly, in some cases so bizarre you may think these young women and girls have no idea how to react."
Clifford listened from the court dock with the aid of a hearing loop as witnesses described how he referred repeatedly to his "tiny" penis and, at other times, put on fake accents in telephone calls to his victims.
In another alleged assault, which was not a charge on the indictment because it took place abroad, Clifford is said to have forced a 12-year-old girl to masturbate him in a jacuzzi while on holiday in Spain after befriending her parents. "It shows he will take outrageous risks and place the hand of a child on his penis, knowing he had power and control over this girl," Cottage said.