Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Max Clifford's fall from grace means Press cleaner place

Vile: Max Clifford

It's been a good time for the Press recently. As a result of its war on Culture Secretary Maria Miller and her disastrously grudging apology for overdoing it on the expenses front, she lost her job.

She had brought in the Royal Charter on Press regulation that no newspaper will sign up to: her successor, Sajid Javid, has turned out to be an enthusiastic supporter of a free Press.

Giving a green light to the recently-created Ipso (Independent Press Standards Organisation), which most of the industry is happy with, he said: "It is now a decision for the Press what they want to do next. I don't see any further role for Government in this."

To the delight of those sections of the Press who believe politicians are on a vengeful mission to destroy, he added that: "Our Press is the best in the world. It is fearless without favour."

Hacked Off, the group fronted by Hugh Grant, is fuming: "In his desire to ingratiate himself with the Press barons... the Culture Secretary should pause to remember... the five active police investigations, the hundreds of potential civil claims and the current criminal trial of the Prime Minister's former Press secretary."

I think Javid is well aware of all that, and may have come to the conclusion that there has been overkill. Some newspapers behaved very badly, but that was partly because the police failed to enforce laws against phone hacking.

Similarly, having ignored complaints about the hideous Jimmy Savile and thus let him get away with abusing hundreds of children, the authorities overreacted by going to town on elderly, rather naff celebrities, whom up to now juries have refused to convict.

However, they had reason to rejoice last week when the evil genius that is the celebrity publicist Max Clifford was found guilty of eight charges of sexual abuse and given an eight-year jail sentence.

I always loathed Clifford. He is the epitome of sleaze, proud of a life making money from depravity – first by showing porn movies, organising sex parties and then by peddling kiss-and-tell stories enhanced by lies – and from providing a "protection" service to clients with plenty of money who want their misdeeds hidden.

Clifford wasn't feeling up willing teenagers who threw themselves at him; he was taking advantage of vulnerable girls who wanted to be stars. In his office, aided by hoax phone calls he claimed were from directors, he would promise the Moon and indulge in various unpleasant kinds of sexual assault.

The most ghastly case was that of a 15-year-old he groomed when in 1977 he met her and her parents on holiday in Spain. What he did to her back in London in his office and his car was vile.

She didn't want to shame her parents, but in 2011, after they died, she had professional counselling and wrote to Clifford telling him what he'd done, calling him "a grade-A paedophile".

Clifford told the Leveson Inquiry into the Press that hacking was "a cancer", and was proud that he had taken a million off News International to settle his own case.

The truth is that he was an even more virulent cancer. He has now been surgically removed from society.

The Press will be cleaner for his passing.

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