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Max Clifford guilty: PR guru to be sentenced for indecent assaults on teenage girls

Victims' lawyer says verdict proves Operation Yewtree was not a celebrity witch-hunt

PR guru Max Clifford has been found guilty of eight charges of indecent assault on teenage girls by a jury at Southwark Crown Court.

The 71-year-old became the first person to be convicted under the high profile Operation Yewtree sex crime investigation today.

The publicist was cleared of two charges and the jury was unable to reach a verdict on one other.

The panel of six men and four women took eight days to deliberate 11 counts of indecent assault on seven alleged victims, all of which Clifford had repeatedly denied.

They were given a majority direction on Wednesday, meaning that they could give verdicts on which at least nine of them agree.

During the seven-week trial, prosecutor Rosina Cottage QC said Clifford, 71, was a "master in the art of intimidation", using his celebrity connections to "bully and manipulate" girls and young women into sex acts over a period of nearly 20 years.

The PR consultant treated his office as his own "sexual fiefdom" and "playground", taking "what he wanted when he wanted", she said.

Clifford, from Hersham in Surrey, told the jury that the allegations against him were "a load of lies" as he accused the alleged victims of being "fantasists and opportunists".

The women - who do not know each other - came forward to police in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal.

Clifford was arrested by detectives from Operation Yewtree in December 2012, and charged in April the following year.

The verdicts were taken in a hushed but packed courtroom on Monday, 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 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 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.

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".

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.

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."

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."

A career behind the headlines

Veteran celebrity agent Max Clifford has enjoyed a career behind the headlines for decades, bringing both much desired and less welcome publicity into the lives of household names.

As a PR expert he represented celebrities including pop mogul Simon Cowell, reality TV star Jade Goody and boxer Muhammad Ali.

He also brokered deals with the tabloids for kiss-and-tell stories such as Antonia de Sancha's affair with David Mellor, Tracy Temple's fling with John Prescott and actor Jude Law's tryst with nanny Daisy Wright.

The youngest of four children, Clifford, who left school at 15 with no qualifications, trained as a journalist after he was sacked from his first job as a shop assistant in a department store.

He went on to work for EMI in 1962, where he was tasked with promoting acts including the Beatles, before branching out on his own and setting up Max Clifford Associates in 1970.

Clifford's extensive contacts in Fleet Street - he described himself as "often poacher and gamekeeper at the same time" - meant he was increasingly turned to as a commentator on matters involving the media.

When aged celebrities began being arrested on suspicion of sex crimes 18 months ago, Clifford took to the radio claiming that former household names were "frightened to death" of falling under suspicion.

Operation Yewtree was launched in October 2012 by Scotland Yard after Jimmy Savile was finally exposed as a prolific paedophile in an ITV documentary.

Days after the inquiry started, Clifford appeared on LBC and said in the 1960s and 1970s some stars "never asked for anybody's birth certificate".

He said: "All kinds of things went on and I do mean young girls throwing themselves at them in their dressing rooms at concert halls, at gigs, whatever.

"They never asked for anybody's birth certificate and they were young lads ... suddenly everyone's dream was a reality."

He added: "We are talking about a lot of people that were huge names in the 60s and 70s and a lot of them barely remember what they did last week, genuinely.

"For them to try and recount what happened in a dressing room in 1965 or 1968 or 1972, genuinely they are frightened to death."

The father-of-one, now 71, helped raise millions of pounds for a variety of different charities and helping care for his daughter Louise, who was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis when she was six.

Her mother Liz died from cancer in 2003, and Clifford himself has suffered from the disease, but he only revealed he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer after his treatment had finished.

The media expert also represented reality Jade Goody when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer, and throughout the final months of her life.

He re-married in 2010, tying the knot with his former PA Jo Westwood.

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