British celebrity publicist Max Clifford, the king of tabloid kiss-and-tell scandals, has been sentenced to eight years in jail for a string of sex assaults against teenagers.
The 71-year-old, who masterminded countless celebrity stories and kept even more out of the headlines, thought he was “untouchable”, judge Anthony Leonard said on Friday.
“You targeted vulnerable women who you thought would comply because they were desperate to succeed,” Leonard said.
The publicist was found guilty earlier this week of eight indecent assaults on four young women aged 15 to 19 between 1977 and 1984.
Clifford, who denied the charges, remained defiant as he entered London’s Southwark Crown Court for sentencing, stonewalling questions about whether he wanted to apologise to his victims.
“I stand by everything I’ve said in the past,” said the silver-haired PR expert.
Clifford admitted it was “not the best day of my life”, adding: “I just have to make the best of it, that’s what I’ve got to do.”
He is the first high-profile figure to be convicted under Operation Yewtree, the police investigation set up to investigate allegations of sex offences following the Jimmy Savile scandal.
Clifford’s victims came forward following revelations in 2012 that the late BBC presenter Savile – a household name in Britain in the 1970s and 1980s – had been a serial sex offender across the decades.
Judge Leonard told Clifford he must serve at least half his sentence in jail.
“These offences may have taken place a long time ago when inappropriate and trivial sexual misbehaviour was more likely to be tolerated or overlooked,” Leonard said.
However, “your offending is not trivial but of a very serious nature”.
Under laws brought in since the offences took place, the worst of Clifford’s sexual acts would have been charged as rape, the judge said.
“The reason why they were not brought to light sooner is because of your own dominant character and your position in the world of entertainment which meant that your victims thought you were untouchable – something I judge that you, too, believed and traded upon,” he said.
The victims included a dancer assaulted in a toilet and a model who said Clifford groped her when she went to his office for career advice in 1983, and he bragged that he could get her a part in a James Bond film.
Clifford was cleared of two other counts of indecent assault. He will not face a retrial on an 11th count where the jury could not reach a verdict.
David Mellor, a 1990s cabinet minister, was forced to resign after Clifford exposed his affair with actress Antonia de Sancha.
Clifford’s made-up claim that Mellor made love wearing a Chelsea football strip made a memorable front page for The Sun, the tabloid owned by Rupert Murdoch.
“I regard Max Clifford as a sleazeball who lived very well and high on the hog on other people’s misery,” Mellor told BBC television.
“He was the arbiter of sleaze who turned out to be more sleazy than anyone he turned over.”