Clifford 'bullied women into sex'
11:23am Thursday 6th March 2014 in © Press Association 2014
PR guru Max Clifford thought he was "untouchable" and used his celebrity connections to "bully and manipulate" girls and women into sex acts over a 20-year period, a court has heard.
Opening the prosecution case at his trial in Southwark Crown Court in London, Rosina Cottage QC told jurors that the 70-year-old "knows how to manipulate, lie and get what he wants".
Clifford is accused of 11 counts of indecent assault relating to seven alleged victims between 1966 and 1984, which he denies.
Ms Cottage told the jury of six women and six men: "This case concerns sexual assaults upon children and young people over a 20-year period. The defendant used his contact with famous people to bully and manipulate these young people into sexual acts with him.
"In his actions, we say he breached the trust of parents he had encouraged to trust him and young women working for him or seeking jobs in the world in which he worked."
Clifford, wearing a grey blazer with a white shirt and dark trousers, listened to proceedings from the glass-walled dock using a hearing loop.
The prosecutor added: "Many of you, but not all of you, will have heard of the name Max Clifford. He is wealthy, he is well connected.
"He is the maker of the kiss-and-tell celebrity and the breaker of reputations. He is the man called upon by television to speak about celebrity and media manipulation.
"He has been at the top of the media game for many years. He knows the strings to pull. He knows how to manipulate, lie and get what he wants.
"He is a man who likes to play games with people and you will hear evidence of the games that he played with these girls and young women.
"As the years went by, he got away with his behaviour, he must have thought he was untouchable and no doubt thought no one would complain and, if they did, they would not be believed."
But Ms Cottage told the court that after the Jimmy Savile scandal hit the headlines in 2012, Clifford's alleged victims began to come forward.
She said the case, which is due to last around six weeks, will hear not only from women to whom the charges relate, but other women who would give evidence of the PR guru's "sexually predatory behaviour".
The prosecutor said: "These women were vulnerable to the attentions of a man experienced in taking sexual advantage of their naivety and their willingness to please.
"His office was his own sexual fiefdom.
"He toyed with their inexperience and treated them with contempt. And we say he continues to do so by denying their allegations."
Ms Cottage said Clifford, who listened intently from the dock, denied knowing any of the women, but if he had met them, nothing they described would have happened.
The 70-year-old has had sexual encounters with "many women", the court heard, but claimed they were all consensual.
Ms Cottage told the jury: "The prosecution say that the defendant touched all of these women in a way that was indecent - in circumstances that you, right-minded people, would consider indecent, and that the defendant intended to do so.
"Whether they were under 16 and they could not consent, or they were over 16 and they did not consent."
As the prosecutor outlined the charges to the court, the jury heard that one related to an occasion when Clifford allegedly forced himself on a girl, who was 14 at the time, when they were in a car.
In another allegation, he was said to have indecently assaulted an 18-year-old.
A third charge alleged that Clifford forced a 15-year-old to masturbate him in a car, while several other assaults were also said to have happened in cars on other occasions.
One alleged victim said she was 19 when Clifford forced himself on her in a taxi, touching her breasts, while another - who was also said to have been 19 at the time - said he assaulted her in his office, trying to kiss her and forcing her on to a sofa where he pressed his body on to her.
Another alleged victim, who thought she was between 16 and 18 at the time, also said she was in Clifford's office when he allegedly lunged at her.
Ms Cottage told the court: "The prosecution say, as the evidence will show, that these offices served as the defendant's own playground.
"He did as he pleased sexually in the office and took what he wanted when he wanted. This the defendant denies."
Explaining why the complainants had not reported the alleged assaults at the time, the prosecutor told the court: "The 1960s, the 1970s and the '80s were very different times from today.
"There was no social media. Secretaries had to bite their lips when the boss patted their bottom and told them to 'run along, love, and make me a cup of tea'.
"A complaint would have earned them ridicule and the sack.
"Nineteen sixty-five was the year the miniskirt was first sold by Mary Quant and the year that Ian Brady and Myra Hindley were arrested and charged, so it's a long time ago," she added.
The prosecutor told the court that, although in the 1970s the Equal Pay Act and Sexual Discrimination Act came into force, there was still a strong pressure "not to complain".