The celebrity publicist Max Clifford is facing up to two years in jail after becoming the first public figure to be convicted of sexual offences under Scotland Yard’s Operation Yewtree inquiry.
Clifford, 71, was convicted of sexually abusing four girls following an eight-week trial at Southwark crown court in London, which heard how the PR guru used his celebrity connections to bully starstruck teenagers into performing sex acts over a period of 10 years.
After deliberating for around 37 hours, the jury convicted Clifford on eight counts of indecent assault and cleared him of two further counts. Jurors could not reach a verdict on one additional charge of indecent assault.
The guilty verdicts make Clifford the first conviction under Operation Yewtree, the £2.7m investigation into historical sex offences triggered by the Jimmy Savile scandal in 2012. His conviction will also lift the pressure on the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) following the recent acquittals of Tory MP Nigel Evans and Coronation Street actor William Roache.
Dressed in a blue blazer and listening to proceedings with the aid of a hearing loop, Clifford showed little emotion as the guilty verdicts were returned. He was bailed and will be sentenced on Friday.
Outside court, he refused to apologise to his victims, whom he labelled throughout the trial as fantasists and liars.
“I’ve been told by my lawyers to say nothing at all,” he said, before being ushered past a battery of camera lenses into a waiting car. His daughter Louise, who was by her father’s side during the eight days of jury deliberations, was comforted by several of Clifford’s supporters, including one friend who nodded his head when asked whether the PR man was the victim of a witch hunt.
Mark Leech editor of Converse the national newspaper for prisoners in England and Wales said he seemed destined for a spell behind the gates of Wandsworth prison.
Mr Leech said: “Adult males convicted and sentenced to immediate custody at Southwark Crown Court go to Wandsworth prison in south London – where as a convicted paedophile and sex offender he will face a very diffficult path indeed.
“It’s likely that he will face a physical attack at some point, which shouldn’t happen but its almost inevitable that it will because he cannot be protected 24 hours a day.
“If sentenced to imprisonment Clifford’s safety is a task that Kenny Brown, the Governor of Wandsworth, will have to manage and I’m sure they are already looking at how they will do that.”