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 yesterday, London’s Southwark Crown Court heard the 70-year-old preyed on girls by pretending to be a Hollywood bigwig 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.
Prosecutor Rosina Cottage QC told the jury the PR consultant treated his office as his own “sexual fiefdom” and “playground”, taking “what he wanted when he wanted”.
The court heard several of the women who had come forward – none of whom knew each other – described repeated references by Clifford to his small private parts 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 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.
Ms Cottage said: “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 the alleged victims stayed silent for years, thinking they would not be 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. Jurors were told 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 other occasions, he made them perform sex acts on him and at other times forced himself on them, the court heard. The PR guru would impress the “starstruck” girls – and on some occasions their parents as well – by name-dropping and suggesting he could introduce them to the world of show-business.
He pretended to one alleged victim that he had told actress Julie Christie about her, while he told the parents of another woman that he played squash with entertainer 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.
“He would put on a different voice and invite them into the office for a meeting, telling them [the girls] not to wear any knickers,” Ms Cottage said. “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.”
Clifford denies all the charges and the case, which is due to last around six weeks, was adjourned until Monday.