'He felt he was invincible and could get away with it forever. He was wrong'
MAX Clifford, the showbusiness public relations expert, was "contemptuous" of the law and lived a "double existence" for decades, a judge said yesterday as he jailed the 71-year-old for eight years for indecent assault.
Clifford had believed he was "untouchable" because of his prominent role in the entertainment and media worlds, said Judge Anthony Leonard. The publicist remained defiant to the last and spent minutes protesting his innocence to reporters as he walked into court, even intimating that he would like to berate his victims for going to the police.
Scotland Yard last night confirmed that officers were investigating further allegations against him. Some are thought to be from the past few years, far more recent than offences dealt with in the trial.
A woman who gave evidence for the prosecution about how Clifford exposed himself to her when she was 19 said she was relieved at the jail term, and accused him of condemning his victims to a "life sentence".
"He felt he was invincible and could get away with it forever. He was wrong," said the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons.
"This puts out a message that you cannot treat people like this, not just to Max Clifford but to anyone."
Clifford, of Hersham, Surrey, grimaced and shook his head as details of the offences were read out by the judge at Southwark Crown Court. But he showed no emotion as the sentences were handed down for eight counts of indecent assault against teenage girls as young as 15 between 1977 and 1984.
Judge Leonard told Clifford: "I judge that the reason why they were not brought to light sooner is because of your own dominant character and your position in the world of entertainment which meant that your victims thought you were untouchable, something I judge that you, too, believed and traded upon."
He said Clifford's "contemptuous attitude" during the trial had been an "additional element of trauma" for his victims. Judge Leonard singled out one incident – which emerged after the verdict – when Clifford crept up behind a Sky News journalist as he filmed a report outside court and began mimicking his gestures. The judge condemned his actions as an attempt to "trivialise the proceedings of this court".
Judge Leonard said he was restricted to imposing two years' imprisonment on each count, the maximum permissible at the time of the offences.
But he stressed he was keen to "reflect the present view of this type of offence" and in an unusual move ordered many of the sentences to run consecutively, making a total of eight years.
Clifford was also ordered to pay £55,000 (€67,000) in costs and will have to sign the sex offenders register for life.
Had he been convicted at the time of the offences, he would almost certainly have received lighter sentences.
Some of his supporters, sitting behind the dock in the public gallery, broke down in tears as he was sentenced.
In his last public appearance as a free man, Clifford had earlier protested his innocence outside court, saying: "I stand by everything I have said in the last 17 months." Asked if he had anything to say to the victims, he said: "There's plenty I would like to say to them." Any appeal was a matter for his lawyers, he added. David Mellor, the former Conservative Cabinet minister who was the subject of lurid, Clifford-orchestrated tabloid coverage of his affair with Antonia de Sancha, an actress, in the early 1990s, said yesterday that he took "a little bit of pleasure" in Clifford's jailing.
"He came out of his house this morning and basically waved two fingers at everything that happened to him. Well, the judge has waved two larger fingers back," said Mr Mellor.
Clifford is the first person to be convicted as a result of Scotland Yard's Operation Yewtree investigation, which began after the Jimmy Savile scandal.
Since the verdicts were delivered on Monday a string of former clients have distanced themselves from him.