Max Clifford appeals 8-year sentence for sex offences: Preview

Max Clifford appeals 8-year sentence for sex offences: Preview

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Max Clifford was convicted on 28th April 2014 of eight counts of indecent assault against four different victims. On 2nd May 2014 he was sentenced to a total of 8 years’ imprisonment.

On 9 October 2014, the Court of Appeal will hear his appeal against sentence.

Sentence

The total sentence was 8 years (plus costs of £55,000).

The full remarks are here and bear reading. The maximum sentence for each offence was 2 years, as limited by the Sexual Offences Act 1956. As we all know, Parliament did not take sexual offences anywhere near serious enough and it took them until 1985 to increase the maximum sentence. We have a fact sheet as to how people are sentenced for historic sex cases.

Mr Clifford was sentenced as follows (age of victim and date of offence in brackets) :

Victim 1

These offences occurred when Clifford met V1 on holiday. He claimed he could help her get some work and be “the UK’s Jodie Foster”. He gained the trust of V1’s parents and took V1 out in his car.

• Count 3 – (aged 15, in 1977/78) – 12 months

Count 3 reflected 7 occasions on which Clifford exposed his penis to V1 and instructed her to masturbate him, claiming it was essential in order to establish a basis of trust between them.

•Count 4 – (aged 15, in 1977/78) – 18 months, consecutive

Count 4 reflected digital penetration on two occasions [today this would be charged as assault by penetration, with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment].

•Count 5 – (aged 15, in 1977/78) – 24 months, consecutive

•Count 6 – (aged 15, in 1977/78) – 24 months, concurrent

Counts 5 and 6 reflected the first and third occasions on which Clifford instructed V1 to perform oral sex upon him and thereafter criticised her performance. On the second time he instructed her to perform oral sex upon him, he told her that a photographer had taken pictures of her doing so, but that she need not worry as he had lots of connections in the press. She threatened to commit suicide. In respect of those counts, the Judge remarked that had the offences been committed after the 2003 Act was in force, they would have resulted in convictions for rape and applying the new guideline, they would have been placed in category B, with a starting point of 10 years’ imprisonment.

The jury also heard evidence of an offence allegedly committed abroad. The Judge said:

“Pertinent to count 3-6 is the evidence of what you did to a 12 year old girl whilst she was on holiday in Puerto Cabopino. I am satisfied so that I am sure on the evidence which the jury heard that this amounted to another sexual offence against a young child. Had the offence not taken place abroad and at a time when it was not justiciable here you would have been charged with indecent assault in relation to it.”

The offence was not capable of being tried in the UK and therefore the jury were not required to return a verdict in respect of it.

Victim 2

• Count 8 – (aged 20, in 1981/82) – 6 months, consecutive

V2 approached Clifford for help with her acting career. He used his familiar technique by pretending that she would be considered for a new Charles Bronson film for which she would be perfect. He telephoned her pretending to be another man, telling her that Max Clifford fancied her and if she played her cards right she would be very famous. At his office, after persuading her to pose for some pictures, Clifford lunged towards V2 and tried to kiss her. When she resisted he pushed her down onto the sofa. She was really frightened and she was just screaming for him to leave her alone.

Victim 3

• Count 9 – (aged 16 or 17, in 1980′s) – 6 months, concurrent

•Count 10 – (aged 16 or 17, in 1980′s) – 21 months, consecutive

V3 was introduced to Clifford for him to provide advice on her modelling career. Count 9 reflected an instance when he took her into his office and told her how he could help and how lucky she was to be represented by him. He told her to take her dress off because he needed to see her figure. He told her that she turned him on and he moved his hands over her body, chest and hips. Count 10 represented activity when Clifford tried to force his erect penis into V3’s mouth, putting his hand on the back of her head, resulting in partial entry. He ejaculated on her face and collar bone.

Victim 4

• Count 11 – (aged 18, in 1984/85) – 15 months, consecutive

V4 had an audition at a nightclub in Piccadilly. Clifford happened to be there having a meeting with three other men. He approached her and asked her if she was interested in acting – she replied that she was. He said he could get her a screen test in a James Bond film and pretended to telephone Cubby Broccoli. The person on the phone pretending to be Broccoli said she would have to find out if Clifford was circumcised before she could get the screen test. Clifford led her to the lavatory, placed her hand on his erect penis and told her to masturbate him. He pulled down her leotard and pulled at her nipples.

The jury also heard evidence regarding other instances of alleged sexual behaviour which were not the subject of counts on the indictment. The Judge took these into account as context to the offences which did feature on the indictment. These included instances where he instructed girls aged around 18 to masturbate him or perform oral sex upon him to ejaculation.

The Judge’s remarks

The Judge took a very dim view of the offences. An example of that can be seen at para.3 of the sentencing remarks:

 “These are historic offences which took place between 30 and 37 years ago. I judge that 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. This features in the evidence. By way of example the victim of Count 11 told the jury that, as you were pulling up your trousers after a sexual act and as she was leaving, you said something like “no one is going to believe you” and it was said as if to make her not tell anyone.”

para.53:

“I have also take into account that there were multiple victims, that your offending extended over a period of 7 years, and that you targeted vulnerable women who you thought would comply because they were desperate to succeed in a career where success can be illusive.”

The Judge decided to impose consecutive sentences for each of the victims, which is par for the course in such cases.

The issues for the court

The basic issue is whether or not the sentences are manifestly excessive in length or wrong in principle.

It is likely that Clifford will argue that

a) some or all of the sentences are too long,

b) the judge was wrong to take into account the alleged conduct which was not subject to a count on the indictment,

c) the judge was incorrect to make the sentences on counts 3-6 (in respect of V1) consecutive, and

d) in any event the overall sentence was too long, having regard to totality.

The Stuart Hall effect 

It was reported that the Prosecutor had suggested to the Court that the Clifford’s protestations of innocence should be an aggravating feature as it caused distress to victims“. This is something that had first been featured in the Stuart Hall case.

This issue divides opinion. Whilst on one hand, the distress caused by public denials and protestations of innocence can be readily understood – and therefore the logic for regarding such behaviour as an aggravating feature is obvious, it is important to recognise the principle that defendants should not be penalised for the way in which they conduct their defence. This brings with it the complex issue of celebrity-defendants – when celebs are prosecuted, there is accompanying media interest and the CPS consequently make a public statement. That induces the celebrity defendant to make a response (and one can well understand why). After the Stuart Hall case, it appears that such a decision may result in a harsher sentence, depending on how vehement the denials are.

It will be interesting to see how the Court of Appeal deals with that issue on Thursday, as the Stuart Hall judgment was delivered by the now retired Lord Judge CJ.

We’ll update this post after the appeal hearing.

2 COMMENTS

  1. The ‘Casting Couch’ has always been a feature of Show Business, and is only really condemned by those who fail to get the part afterwards. There can be little doubt that, at the time, there was a high degree of consent from the ‘victims’, though clearly Clifford acted illegally and immorally. I’d question whether some sentencing allowance should be made for the victims’ exploitative behaviour as well as his predatory actions.
    To say they didn’t know what they were doing because they were only 15 is given the lie by the fact that they were prepared to use sex to get what they wanted. The price only appeared too high when they didn’t get what they wanted.

  2. I wonder if the same argument could be applied to schools children could be coerced into having sex with their teachers in order to get better grades and if they are unsucessful in getting a decent grade, either because they refuse or maybe they didn’t perform the sex act to the satisfaction of the sexual predator er… teacher, well they only have themself to blame. Maybe it can form part of the new educational curriculum.

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