Top PR guru found guilty of sex assault

British public relations guru Max Clifford stops to pose for members of the media as he arrives for his trial at Southwark Crown Court in London. Photo / AP
British public relations guru Max Clifford stops to pose for members of the media as he arrives for his trial at Southwark Crown Court in London. Photo / AP

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

Jurors at a London court found the 71-year-old Clifford guilty of eight counts of indecent assault relating to four women as young as 15.

The spokesman for the stars was acquitted on two other counts, while the jury was unable to reach a verdict on another one.

The silver-haired publicist was granted bail ahead of sentencing on Friday.

"You must realise that the fact I have given you bail is no indication of what the final sentence will be," judge Anthony Leonard told him.

On leaving Southwark Crown Court, Clifford stood for photographers but said only: "I've been told by my lawyers to say nothing at all."

Part of the six-week trial focused on the length of Clifford's penis, something the judge said had brought much "hilarity" to the hearings, but it also heard evidence of him bullying teenagers into sex acts.

Clifford is the first high-profile figure to be convicted under Operation Yewtree, the Scotland Yard probe set up to investigate allegations of sex offences following the Savile scandal.

Clifford's victims came forward following revelations in 2012 that the late BBC presenter Savile - a household name in Britain in the 1970s and 1980s - had been a serial sex offender across the decades.

Clifford's offences date from before he achieved widespread fame in Britain as the man behind several well-known celebrity news stories.

He denied all 11 counts of indecent assault against seven girls and women between 1966 and 1984.

Clifford started out working for the EMI record label, promoting acts including The Beatles, before branching out on his own.

He has represented US boxing icon Muhammad Ali, while the stream of celebrity kiss-and-tell stories he brokered were a regular feature of tabloid newspapers.

- Penis length -

In court, prosecutors said Clifford was a "master in the art of intimidation and manipulation", who used his showbusiness connections to "bully and manipulate" young women into sex acts.

The victims included a dancer assaulted in a toilet and a model who said Clifford groped her when she went to his office for career advice in 1983 and he bragged that he could get her a part in a James Bond film.

The celebrity agent was also 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.

Clifford had told the court the claims were "a load of lies", with his accusors being "fantasists and opportunists".

The evidence included a focus on Clifford's manhood.

"I have heard more conversation about my penis in the last three weeks than in the last 70 years," Clifford said, raising a laugh from jurors.

The court heard conflicting claims from women, suggesting that the PR guru either had a "micro-penis" or one that was "enormous".

The jury was told that Clifford's flaccid penis had been measured by a doctor at five and a quarter inches (13.5 centimetres) long.

Clifford's defence had claimed the differing lengths recalled by the women suggested they had not seen the publicist's penis, judge Leonard said in his summing up.

So far, four people have been charged out of the 17 arrested under Scotland Yard's Operation Yewtree.

Two of the six men who remain on police bail, 1970s glam rocker Gary Glitter and comedian Freddie Starr, have been on bail for 18 months.

Lawyer Liz Dux, who represents more than 150 people who have made complaints under the operation, 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."

- AFP

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