PR guru Max Clifford thought he was “untouchable” as he used his celebrity connections to “bully and manipulate” girls and young women into sex acts over a 20-year period, a court has heard.
As his trial over a string of alleged indecent assaults got under way today, London’s Southwark Crown Court heard that the 70-year-old preyed on girls by pretending to be Hollywood bigwigs and boasting about his famous contacts.
Clifford, famed as a celebrity agent, is accused of 11 counts of indecent assault relating to seven alleged victims between 1966 and 1984, all of which he denies.
Opening the case against him, prosecutor Rosina Cottage QC told the jury of six women and six men that the PR consultant treated his office as his own “sexual fiefdom” and “playground”, taking “what he wanted when he wanted”.
But the court heard that several of the women who had come forward - none of whom knew each other - described repeated references by Clifford to his “tiny penis” during the alleged assaults.
Ms Cottage told the court: “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, shaking his head several times as the allegations against him were outlined to the jury.
“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.”
She added: “These women were vulnerable to the attentions of a man experienced in taking sexual advantage of their naivety and their willingness to please.
“He toyed with their inexperience and treated them with contempt. And we say he continues to do so by denying their allegations.”
The court heard that the alleged victims stayed silent for years, thinking they would not believed, but started to come forward in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal.
As well as several alleged victims to whom the 11 charges relate, there are a number of witnesses who claim they too were indecently assaulted by Clifford, the court heard.
One claimed she was just 12 when Clifford assaulted her on holiday but as the alleged assault, said to have happened in 1983, happened abroad, it could not be included in the charges.
Jurors were told that the charges related to a series of alleged assaults, said to have happened in cars, and at his offices in Bond Street.
On some occasions Clifford told the girls to take off their clothes; on others he made them perform sex acts on him; and on some he forced himself on them, the court heard.
The PR guru would impress the “starstruck” girls, impressing them - and on some occasions their parents as well - by name-dropping and suggesting he could introduce them to the world of showbusiness.
To one alleged victim, he pretended he had told actress Julie Christie about her, while he told the parents of another woman that he played squash with Tommy Steele.
Several of the women claimed they had taken calls from what they thought was Clifford pretending to be Hollywood celebrities, including actor Charles Bronson; Dynasty director Aaron Spelling and James Bond producer Albert “Cubby” Broccoli.
Several alleged assaults took place in Clifford’s central London offices, the court heard, which one woman said was “sexually orientated”, with the PR guru constantly playing games with female models and making calls to them, pretending to be Michael Winner.
“He would put on a different voice and invite them into the office for a meeting telling them not to wear any knickers,” Ms Cottage said.
She told the court: “His office was his own sexual fiefdom.
“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.”
Several of the women also described Clifford making reference to the size of his penis, the court heard, with the PR consultant apparently exposing himself to one while saying “Look at my penis. Isn’t it tiny? What can I do with this?”, while saying to another: “Is this the smallest one you’ve ever seen?”
None of the women reported the alleged assaults to police at the time, thinking they would not be believed, the court heard. But they later came forward as allegations about Savile hit the headlines.
Ms Cottage told the court: “The 1960s, the 1970s and the Eighties 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.”
But the court heard that one woman sent an anonymous letter to Clifford, writing: “You abused me, you hurt me, upset me and you are a vile, horrible man.”
Extracts of the letter were read to the court, in which the woman said: “It has taken me 35 years to write this letter so hopefully it will reach you.”
Outlining the abuse she claimed to have suffered at the hands of Clifford, she said “You took pleasure in degrading me”, and asked: “How many others like me are there out there?”
A copy of the letter was found in Clifford’s bedside table, Ms Cottage told the court, adding that another copy was also found in his “other home”.
Ms Cottage said Clifford claimed to have had sexual encounters with “many women”, but only ever consensually.
The 70-year-old was first arrested in December 2012, when his homes in Hersham and the Cotswolds, as well as his offices, were searched, the court heard.
He was arrested again in February 2013, and charged in April that year. Ms Cottage told the jury: “No doubt you will hear from the defendant about the fact that he has worked tirelessly on behalf of charity and supported his daughter in her suffering for many years.
“There may be witnesses who say they have known him in the world of showbusiness and have never known him to behave other than impeccably with young women, but he is a joker with a broad sense of humour.”
She said it would be for the jurors to decide what weight to put on what evidence, urging them to assess the case with “cool logic and sound common sense”, but asked: “How and why would they, none of whom know each other or who have ever met each other, make complaints which are compelling and detailed and have significant elements of similarity?”
Clifford denies all charges and the case, which is due to last around six weeks, was adjourned until Monday morning.