BRITAIN

Jimmy Savile

UK public relations guru Max Clifford convicted of sexual assaults

High-profile publicist whose clients included David Beckham convicted of a series of offences against girls as young as 15 dating back decades

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 April, 2014, 9:35pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 April, 2014, 1:21am

Max Clifford, Britain's top public relations guru, was found guilty yesterday of a string of sexual assaults in the first conviction stemming from a police investigation launched after the Jimmy Savile scandal.

The publicist, known in Britain for handling high-profile celebrity scandals and representing television mogul Simon Cowell, was convicted of eight counts of indecent assault stemming from attacks on teenagers dating back more 40 years.

Clifford had called the accusations "utterly untrue, disgusting lies".

Prosecutors charged that he lured young girls into sex by offering them acting roles, including in the hit soap opera Dynasty.

Peter Watt, director of a national child protection group, said Clifford had "rightly been unmasked as a ruthless and manipulative sex offender."

The millionaire publicist, whose clients during a five-decade career have included English soccer star David Beckham and US boxer Mohammed Ali, used his London office as his own "sexual fiefdom" and impersonated Hollywood icons to lure girls into his grasp, a court was told.

In one case, Clifford was found guilty of repeatedly abusing a 15-year-old girl after he made friends with her family in Spain in 1977. She said he convinced her parents he could make her a star before taking her out in his car and sexually abusing her.

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 the US show Dynasty to repay her favours.

A London jury also cleared Clifford, 71, of two counts of indecent assault and was unable to reach a decision on another count after more than a week of deliberations.

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. Outside, Clifford refused to make a statement. "I've been told by my lawyers to say nothing at all."

Summing up six weeks of evidence, prosecutor Rosina Cottage QC 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."

The guilty verdicts make Clifford the first suspect to be prosecuted successfully under Scotland Yard's Operation Yewtree investigation.

The probe was sparked by the scandal surrounding Savile, the late BBC entertainer, in late 2012 and has led to a spate of arrests of high-profile show business figures but - until yesterday - not one conviction.

Savile, one of Britain's best-known television presenters, was named by police as a "prolific" sexual predator who used his fame to target hundreds of teenagers over five decades. The allegations surfaced after Savile died in October 2011.

More than a dozen other show business personalities have been arrested as part of the Yewtree probe. They include veteran entertainer Rolf Harris, 83, who has denied charges of assaulting four girls from the 1960s to the 80s. He goes on trial later this week.

Former BBC radio DJ Dave Lee Travis, 68, is fighting a charge of indecent assault on a woman in 1995, months after he was cleared of 12 other counts of indecent assault.

Associated Press, The Guardian