The Herald Scotland — April 28, 2014
PR guru Max Clifford has been found guilty of a string of indecent assaults on teenage girls over a period of nearly 20 years.
The 71-year-old became the first person to be convicted under the high profile Operation Yewtree sex crime investigation at Southwark Crown Court today.
He was found guilty of eight indecent assaults, cleared of two and the jury was unable to reach a verdict on one other.
Clifford repeatedly denied the claims, calling his arrest and prosecution “a nightmare” and protesting his innocence.
He was arrested by detectives from Operation Yewtree in December 2012, and charged in April the following year.
The investigation, Scotland Yard’s inquiry into historic allegations of sexual offences, was prompted after claims were made against the late DJ Jimmy Savile.
The verdicts were taken in a hushed but packed courtroom, given by the forewoman of the jury on its eighth day of deliberations.
Clifford sat still in the dock as the jury forewoman returned the verdicts.
He could be seen breathing deeply as he listened through a hearing loop.
He walked out of the courtroom with friends and supporters in complete silence, one of them patting him on the shoulder as he walked.
Clifford was released on bail until his sentencing on Friday, but Judge Anthony Leonard QC warned him this is no reflection on the sentence that will be passed.
He said: “You must realise that the fact I have given you bail is no indication of what the final sentence will be.”
The court heard from a string of women who testified about Clifford’s behaviour, romping naked in his New Bond Street office.
Prosecutors portrayed him as a well-practised manipulator, who promised to boost his victims’ careers and get them to meet celebrities in exchange for sexual favours.
He offered to get them casting appointments, pretending to be Hollywood bigwigs including Steven Spielberg, Albert “Cubby” Broccoli and Michael Winner on the phone, and bizarrely bragged about having a tiny penis, telling one victim: “Is it the smallest you’ve ever seen?”
The exact size of his manhood became a matter of contention during the trial, and his defence team asked a doctor to measure his penis as part of the evidence.
Victims included a dancer who received a phone call while she was at a nightclub from someone pretending to represent producer Broccoli, and was told to find out whether Clifford was circumcised.
She then “froze” and realised she was “stuck”, and feared she would be raped when Clifford took her into the toilet and assaulted her.
Another girl, a teenage model, said Clifford groped her when she went to his office for career advice in 1983, bragging that he could get her a part in a James Bond film.
He then masturbated while he was on the phone to his wife, and tried to put his penis in her mouth.
The court also heard from a woman who claimed Clifford had impressed her parents with celebrity tales and went on to abuse her from the age of 15.
She said she was driven to contemplate suicide when he falsely told her he had a photograph of her giving him oral sex, and in 2011 sent him a letter claiming he had made her life “a living hell”.
For his part, Clifford branded his accusers as “fantasists and opportunists”.
The celebrity agent was found guilty of abusing one girl on a number of occasions after he met her family on holiday in Torremolinos in Spain in 1977 when she was 15.
She claimed that the PR guru would come round to her house, impressing her parents and speaking about how he could make her a star, before taking her out in his car and abusing her.
She later wrote him an anonymous letter saying he had made her life “a living hell”.
Another alleged victim, who was an extra in the film Octopussy, claimed she was targeted at Clifford’s office in 1981 or 1982, aged 19.
The court heard that Clifford told her that actor Charles Bronson wanted pictures of her in her underwear to decide whether she could be in a film, and after she had spoken on the phone to a man claiming to be Bronson, Clifford pinned her down on a sofa, but she fought him off and left.
The next woman who made claims against Clifford was an aspiring model who went to his office in the early 1980s, when she was in her late teens, and was told to pose in her underwear.
She said that as she took off her dress, he told her “What a turn-on”, and groped her, and after a phone call with his wife tried to force her to perform oral sex, telling her he would get her a part in a Bond film but she would have to sleep with Cubby Broccoli.
The final alleged victim was an 18-year-old dancer, who said Clifford took her into a nightclub toilet in the early 1980s and forced her to touch his penis, saying “Who is going to believe you?”.
She said Clifford persuaded her to take a phone call from someone who said if she wanted a screen test she would have to tell him if Clifford was circumcised.
The jury could not reach a verdict on a count involving a woman who claimed Clifford groped her in his car after meeting her at a Wimpy bar in Morden, south London in 1966.
He was cleared of another two allegations – one woman 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 who claimed she was groped in a taxi in 1978.
Lawyer Liz Dux, who represents more than 150 people who have made complaints under Operation Yewtree, said: “This verdict proves Yewtree was not a celebrity witch-hunt. Some predatory people used their fame, money and celebrity to groom and then abuse the vulnerable.
“I hope this verdict sends a firm message – no longer will abusers like Clifford be shrouded in silence. Victims now have a voice and Britain will never return to the dark days of the 60s, 70s and 80s.”
Denise Marshall, chief executive of Eaves, a charity which campaigns against violence against women and girls, said: “We had in fact prepared a press release in readiness for a not guilty verdict, not because we had an opinion on the guilt or innocence of Clifford but given the pattern of such cases.
“I hope this lays to rest all the chatter about anonymity and all the attacks on the CPS for rightly pursuing such cases.
“However, we fear that the clamour by powerful, famous men and some women supporters to change the rules around anonymity may still continue despite having been investigated and rejected.”
During the trial, the court also heard from a string of women who were not on the indictment, either because their claims did not meet the criminal standard or what they alleged happened abroad, who were called as supporting prosecution witnesses.
Two of them said that Clifford was fixated on having a small penis, telling one woman who went to a film audition at Clifford’s office when she was 19: “Look at my penis. Isn’t it tiny? What can I do with this?”
Another who was the same age when she went to Clifford’s New Bond Street office to meet her friend in 1981 or 1982, said he told her he could get her a part in the American soap Dynasty, and pretended to be director Aaron Spelling on the phone.
The woman said that Clifford took his trousers down and put her hand on his penis, saying: “Is this the smallest one you’ve ever seen?,” as she masturbated him, before he ejaculated over her hand.
The most serious claim came from a woman who said he had forced her to touch his penis when she was just 12 years old during a holiday in Spain.
Others described Clifford boasting about his celebrity connections – another woman, then 18, said he had told her she could meet David Bowie if she gave him oral sex.
The woman claimed that she saw Clifford naked in his office more than once, and that he would brag about his trysts with women at his London HQ.
Another witness said she met Clifford in 1986 when she was 18, and he told her that he wanted her to go for a role in a film called Labyrinth, starring David Bowie.
He made several “sexual” phone calls to her, the court heard, and said she had to “sleep her way to success”. She went to a flat with him for some promotional photos, where he showed her his penis, the court heard.
The final supporting witness said she went to Clifford’s offices in 1988, aged 16, and claimed Clifford made her masturbate him after telling her of a potential film role. She said she later went to a series of dinners with him, when he tried to get her to leave with other men.
Clifford left court without commenting. He posed for pictures flanked by supporters but told reporters: “I have been told by my lawyers not to say anything at all.”
Peter Watt, director of National Services at the NSPCC, said: “Max Clifford has rightly been unmasked as a ruthless and manipulative sex offender who preyed for decades on children and young women.
“Clifford was a rich and influential man who dined with the stars but the way he manipulated and groomed his victims is typical of many sex offenders. He exploited their vulnerabilities, using lies and coercion to get what he wanted.
“Throughout the court case Clifford has behaved dismissively and arrogantly towards his victims and the suffering he has caused them. He made them go through a long and painful court case and relive their traumatic experiences by not pleading guilty.
“Many of his victims innocently came to him hoping he could make their dreams come true, dazzled by his celebrity connections. But he saw women and young girls as sexual objects for his own gratification. Instead of helping their bids for stardom he indecently assaulted them before casting them aside.
“Intimidated by his power and wealth, many of his victims did not initially speak out. But the courage they have shown in telling police what had happened to them and giving evidence means they have finally got justice.”
As he walked towards his waiting car, Clifford was asked what it felt like to be the story, and replied it was “not the first time”.