Max Clifford was jailed for eight years today for eight historic counts of indecent assault where he groomed and degraded teenagers as young as 15 years old.
Handing down one of the most severe sentences available to him under previous legislation, Judge Anthony Leonard told the disgraced 71-year-old publicist he could have faced life imprisonment if the offences happened today. Clifford must serve at least four years having been found guilty on Monday of a string of assaults that took place against a girl and three women between 1977 and 1984. He will automatically go on the sex offenders’ register for life.
Judge Leonard condemned Clifford, breathing heavily in the dock at Southwark Crown Court with the aid of a hearing loop, for his “contemptuous attitude” and said: “Your victims thought you were untouchable… you did too”.
Referring to the publicist’s mimicking of a Sky News reporter during the trial the judge said: “I find your behaviour quite extraordinary and a further indication that you show no remorse. This additional element of trauma caused by your contemptuous attitude is something I will take into account in sentence.”
Telling Clifford he must serve his sentences of between six and 24 months consecutively, Judge Leonard said: “These offences may have taken place a long time ago when inappropriate and trivial sexual behaviour was more likely to be tolerated. Your offending was not trivial but of a very serious nature.”
The judge said he held Clifford personally responsible for his victims not coming forward sooner. He also told Clifford that his abuse of one victim alone could have seen him get at least eight years in jail under current law but that it did not apply today because the offences occurred in the 1970s and 1980s. The judge said some of the Clifford’s crimes would now be charged as rape, which carries a maximum life sentence, if they happened today.
A sexual assault allegation against Clifford involving a girl of 12 said to have occurred in Spain would also have been charged had legislation allowed, the court heard. Judge Leonard said he was sure that Clifford had assaulted her in a whirlpool bath. The woman was in court to see Clifford’s sentence handed down and cried when the judge raised her case.
Describing his extensive charitable work, the judge said: “Although your charitable work has gone on for a long time after your offending stopped, I cannot ignore that for decades you were leading a double existence.”
After hearing his fate Clifford turned off his phone, took off his hearing loop and turned to supporters behind him. He smiled and was led to the cells before a secure van took him to Wandsworth Prison.
Clifford, from Hersham, Surrey, became the first person convicted under Operation Yewtree, Scotland Yard’s major investigation into historical sex crimes. Some of Clifford’s victims, aged between 15 and 18 at the time of the abuse, were in the packed courtroom to hear Clifford’s sentence. The jury had cleared Clifford of two further charges and the jury failed to reach a verdict on a third.
The publicist had remained defiant as he arrived at court for his sentencing, taking time to pose for the wall of photographers outside the central London court. He refused to apologise stating that he stood by everything he has said since his arrest in December 2012.
Impact statements revealing how Clifford’s abuse changed the lives of his victims were earlier heard in court. One woman said she abandoned her career plans, while another said the publicist took away her trust in men.
Prosecutor Rosina Cottage QC said one woman’s abuse at the hands of Clifford had ruined her relationship with her parents, whom she felt she had deceived, and her husband. The victim said seeing Clifford protest his innocence on television brought back feelings of intimidation and fear.
Ms Cottage said: “She was further upset and distressed to see Mr Clifford refusing to apologise to the victims after the guilty verdict on the court steps.”
Clifford’s second wife Jo Westwood, 51, was again absent from court, reportedly at another home in the Cotswolds. High profile clients such as Simon Cowell, who paid Clifford £250,000 a year for his services, have already fired the publicist as his PR empire lies in tatters.
The CPS and the Met both praised the courage of Clifford’s victims in coming forward. Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders said: “People think they can be immune somehow because of the positions they are in. And there is a very clear message here. Nobody is immune, nobody is above the law and it doesn’t matter when things happened, we will prosecute when we have the evidence to do so.”
Peter Garsden, president of the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers, said: “Considering we expected a sentence of two years, eight years is a very clear message.”