‘Contemptuous’ Clifford sentenced to eight years for indecently assaulting four girls
PR guru Max Clifford has been jailed for eight years for a string of indecent assaults on four women.
The 71-year-old finally fell from grace after decades influencing the media when he was convicted of eight counts of the crime, carried out between 1977 and 1984, on Monday.
Passing sentence at Southwark Crown Court today, Judge Anthony Leonard told him: “These offences may have taken place a long time ago, when inappropriate and trivial sexual behaviour was more likely to be tolerated, but your offending was not trivial, but of a very serious nature.”
The judge said that due to the age of the offences that occurred between 1977 and 1984, Clifford was charged under an act from 1956, which set the maximum term at two years.
Under later legislation passed in 2003, the maximum term would have been 10 years, and for the worst instances would have been charged as rape or assault by penetration, which attract a maximum life term, the court heard.
Clifford repeatedly shook his head as the judge made his comments to a packed courtroom.
Judge Leonard added that he thought Clifford’s personality and position in the public eye were why the crimes had not been made public sooner.
He said: “The reason why they were not brought to light sooner was because of your own dominant character and your position in the world of entertainment which meant that your victims thought that you were untouchable, something that I think you too believed.”
Clifford, who branded his accusers “fantasists”, remained defiant ahead of his sentencing, saying: “I stand by everything I have said in the last 17 months.”
A string of his clients have moved to distance themselves from the veteran agent in the wake of his conviction, the first under the sex crime inquiry Operation Yewtree.
Some of Clifford’s supporters, sitting behind the dock in the public gallery, broke down in tears as he was sentenced.
Describing his extensive charitable work, the judge said: “Although your charitable work has gone on for a long time after your offending stopped, I cannot ignore that for decades you were leading a double existence.”
During his trial, prosecutors portrayed Clifford as a well-practised manipulator, who promised to boost his victims’ careers and get them to meet celebrities in exchange for sexual favours.
Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders said: “The prosecution in this case has proved Max Clifford’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt and the jury in this case decided that they were sure Max Clifford was guilty on eight of the 11 counts brought to court.
“He has rightly been held to account and sentenced today for his crimes.
“The prosecution was built with evidence demonstrating a pattern of behaviour where unconnected victims told of strikingly similar experiences over a number of years. I would like to thank all the victims for coming forward and giving evidence in difficult circumstances.
“Research is clear that sexual offences are severely under-reported and I want to provide reassurance to any victim that the CPS will continue to make decisions based on the evidence and in accordance with the code for Crown prosecutors.
“We will work with the police and victims to build strong cases which we can put before the court, no matter when the alleged offending took place or was reported. I hope this provides other victims with the courage and confidence to come forward and report abuse that may have happened to them, no matter who is alleged to have carried out the abuse or when.
“The CPS regularly gains convictions in non-recent sexual abuse cases up and down the country which go unreported, yet this case, alongside a few others, have attracted much more attention.
“For the CPS, there is no difference – we apply the same tests in every case, no matter who the defendant is. That is the criminal justice system working effectively.
“The independence of the CPS means that our decision-making is at all times fair, impartial and without prejudice and we will pursue such prosecutions resolutely and robustly, no matter who the suspect is.”
The judge criticised Clifford’s “contemptuous” behaviour during the trial, referring to a strange encounter when he was filmed mimicking Sky News reporter Tom Parmenter as he recorded a piece to camera.
Describing the ordeal of the victim who was abused from the age of 15, the judge said: “Not unnaturally, what she looks for is some sort of apology from you or an acknowledgement as to what you have been responsible for.
“She has been extremely upset by your public denials before trial, the reports of your attitude during trial – laughing and shaking your head in the dock at the accusations made against you.
“For my part, I would add something that since the jury have returned verdicts I have discovered, that you appeared behind a reporter outside this court whilst he was making his report of your evidence and during which you 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.
“Whilst there is a difference in degree between your reaction to what then were allegations of indecent assault and those of a defendant who makes public denials and then pleads guilty, this additional element of trauma caused by your contemptuous attitude is something that I shall take into account in sentence.
“I can only hope that these proceedings will provide all your victims with some sort of closure.”
Clifford’s solicitor said that he is “seriously” considering an appeal against sentence, and considering an appeal against conviction.
Speaking outside court, Detective Chief Inspector Michael Orchard said: “Following today’s sentencing I would like to again thank all the victims for their courage, strength and bravery in coming forward. Without their support we would not have secured this conviction.
“My officers carried out a painstaking investigation to identify all historic and current evidential opportunities without fear or favour to ensure this case was brought to trial. I hope this gives other victims the courage to come forward knowing we will make even effort to investigate their claims regardless of the passage of time.”
He said Scotland Yard had seen an additional 1400 allegations of sexual abuse in the last 12 months.
“Our specially trained officers along with CPS colleagues will continue to work tirelessly to bring sex offenders, whether recent or not. to justice.”