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Max Clifford says he's an easy target

Max Clifford
Max Clifford

Disgraced former celebrity publicist Max Clifford has told jurors he is "an easy target" for abuse allegations following what he claimed was a wrongful conviction two years ago.

Giving evidence on the first day of his defence for allegedly indecently assaulting a 17-year-old girl in the early 1980s, Clifford said he had hired private investigators to help prove his innocence in this case and the previous trial two years ago - allegations he said "disgusted" him.

The PR guru was jailed for eight years in May 2014 after being convicted of eight charges under Operation Yewtree, the Met Police investigation set up after the Jimmy Savile scandal.

The alleged victim in the latest trial claimed she was assaulted by Clifford at his Mayfair offices in New Bond Street between October 1981 and May 1982.

Clifford, 73, told Southwark Crown Court: "I am not a bully, it's not my nature. I stand up for myself and I stand up for others. I wouldn't bully or compromise a 17-year-old."

He added: "But I'm an easy target now."

Clifford said he had hired Metropolitan Police officers as private detectives to help clear his name.

He said: "I was found guilty... I know I'm innocent. Hopefully one day I will be able to prove that.

"One of the things I have learned (from the last trial) is you're guilty until you're proven innocent when sexual offences are involved."

Clifford appeared in the dock wearing a navy blue suit, white shirt, blue and red spotted tie and glasses, with a white beard.

He reeled off a list of celebrity clients during his decades as a publicist, including Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, Diana Ross and a host of sports stars.

He said he was also employed by Chelsea FC because their players kept "getting caught up in scandals".

Asked by defence counsel Sarah Forshaw QC to respond to the historical allegation against the teenage girl, Clifford said: "No, it didn't happen."

He said he would have been able to remember such an incident.

Clifford told the jury he was not always faithful to his late wife of four decades, Liz, but insisted he loved her.

He said: "I had affairs, I'm not proud of it. But they went on for years. I have written all about this in my book 10 years ago."

Clifford told jurors he had become "an equalities rep" at Category C Littlehey Prison in East Anglia since his conviction two years ago.

He said: "It (prison) was a shock to the system, as you can expect. I can only compare it to being buried alive.

"Having had a very successful living, I have lost everything. The papers are full of it.

"At Littlehey Prison, I teach in education, I play tennis. I'm writing another book - all of these things.

"The emphasis at the prison is rehabilitation. I'm an equalities rep. If anyone has any racial issues or gender issues, I help them out."

He said he was transferred to Wandsworth Prison for this trial.

Opening the defence case, Ms Forshaw said the "odds are stacked against Max Clifford" following his conviction in 2014 "at the height of the Operation Yewtree hysteria".

She said her client "was never going to win a popularity contest", and that the "media circus" surrounding Operation Yewtree meant coverage of Clifford's conviction two years ago was "vitriolic".

She said: "A cynic might say someone in the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) thought they could chalk this (latest allegation) up as an easy victory for the bedevilled Yewtree."

Under cross-examination from prosecutor Rosina Cottage QC, Clifford denied using a Polaroid camera to take pictures of the genitals of "wannabe girls" who were "desperate to be famous".

He said he thought the alleged victim's reason for contacting police was financial.

Asked by the prosecutor to comment on kiss-and-tell stories about him since his conviction two years ago, he said: "You must remember, I don't get newspapers - I'm in prison."

He said a claimant could expect to receive £25,000 to £50,000 for such a story involving him following his conviction, if it made the front page of a tabloid newspaper.

Clifford, formerly of Hershey in Surrey, denies the sole allegation of indecent assault. The trial will continue on Tuesday.