Max Clifford tells jurors 'I know I'm innocent'

Court drawing of Max Clifford on trial at Southwark Crown Court, 27 June 2016 Image copyright Julia Quenzler

Former celebrity publicist Max Clifford has told a jury he is determined to clear his name as he faces an allegation of indecent assault.

Mr Clifford, 73, who was jailed in 2014 under Operation Yewtree, said: "I was found guilty... I know I'm innocent."

He was giving evidence on the first day of his defence for allegedly indecently assaulting a 17-year-old girl more than three decades ago, which he denies.

He said he had hired investigators to help prove his innocence.

"I know I was not guilty. One of the things I have learned is you're guilty until you're proven innocent when sexual offences are involved," he told Southwark Crown Court.

"I have had the money to be able to employ private investigators for this trial. They are all ex-Met Police."

Asked what he had tasked the private investigators with, Mr Clifford, of Hersham in Surrey, replied: "To tell the truth."

Mr Clifford was given an eight-year prison sentence after being convicted of a number of charges under Operation Yewtree, the Met Police investigation set up in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal.

Opening his defence, Sarah Forshaw QC said the "odds are stacked against Max Clifford", following his conviction "at the height of the Operation Yewtree hysteria".

'Covered in excrement'

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

He allegedly locked the girl in his office and forced her to engage in a sexual act with him, the jury has heard.

When asked about the allegation, he replied: "There's no way it ever happened. She knows that as well."

He denied having ever made threats to "murder or kill" the victim, who told the court she feared for her life during the alleged incident.

"I am not a bully, it's not my nature," he said. "I stand up for myself and I stand up for others. I wouldn't bully or compromise a 17-year-old."

"But I'm an easy target now," he added.

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

Image copyright PA

While giving evidence, Mr Clifford spoke about his early career, his marriage and affairs, and his life in prison.

He told jurors prison "was a shock to the system" and he had become "an equalities rep" at the Category C Littlehey Prison in Cambridgeshire.

"I can only compare it to being buried alive," he said. "Having had a very successful living, I have lost everything."

Mr Clifford went on to say he had been transferred to Wandsworth Prison, south-west London, for this trial, where he said he had been kept in his cell for "23-and-a-half hours a day".

He told jurors: "It's a simple cell - no communications, no TVs, radio, it doesn't even have a kettle. When I arrived, the walls were covered in excrement."

Mr Clifford told the court he had helped launch the career of The Beatles, and later worked with several household names, including Frank Sinatra, Diana Ross and Seve Ballesteros.

"I was also employed by Chelsea Football Club because so many of their football stars were getting caught up in scandals," he added.

'Big Brother'

The alleged victim, who is now married with children, had previously told jurors that Mr Clifford left "explicit" Polaroid photographs of women on his desk for her to see.

Under cross-examination from prosecutor Rosina Cottage QC, Mr Clifford denied using a Polaroid camera to take pictures of "wannabe girls".

The defendant said the camera was a gift from a friend, and allowed people in the office - and his daughter and her friends - to take a picture if anyone famous ever showed up.

Responding to the allegation that he used the camera to take pictures of girls who were "desperate to be famous", Mr Clifford replied: "I could have, but I didn't.

"I met a lot of people, male and female, who were desperate. You only have to look at Big Brother."

He said he was passed "maybe 100" Polaroid images of "young women with their legs wide apart" during a 20-year period.

The trial continues.

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