UK

Max Clifford: Sex assault appeal told of trial 'error'

Max Clifford outside Southwark Crown Court in April 2014 Image copyright PA
Image caption Max Clifford was serving an eight-year jail term when he died

The judge at the sexual assault trial of publicist Max Clifford made a "very significant error" by not asking the jury to consider the issue of consent, the Court of Appeal has been told.

Lawyers say private detectives also have new evidence that throws doubt on the convictions, which are "unsafe".

Clifford, from Surrey, began the legal challenge before he died aged 74 while serving an eight-year prison term.

His daughter, Louise, has continued the appeal on his behalf.

The PR consultant was jailed in May 2014 after being convicted of eight indecent assaults, carried out between 1977 and 1984, against four young women and girls.

He died from heart failure in December 2017 after collapsing in his cell at Littlehey Prison in Cambridgeshire.

Prosecutors told Clifford's trial he had used his celebrity connections to lure women.

On Tuesday, his lawyer, Sarah Forshaw QC, said the jury at Southwark Crown Court should have been able to consider whether the women Clifford allegedly assaulted had consented.

She told the Court of Appeal that Clifford - known for representing a string of famous clients and selling exclusive stories to tabloid newspapers - had always denied "forced sexual activity".

She said the grounds of his appeal were "fresh evidence", and "misdirections or inadequate directions" by the trial judge Anthony Leonard.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Max Clifford's daughter has continued the legal challenge on his behalf

Ms Forshaw said the "removal" of the issue of consent, or "belief in consent", from the jury, was an issue.

She told the court in his first police interview Clifford had said he wanted to "emphasise that I have never forced any female to engage in any form of sexual activity with me against their will".

"He flatly denied the scenarios these women were painting," the barrister added. "The complainants were painting scenarios involving forced sexual activity, which he would always deny, and denied until his death."

Ms Forshaw said Clifford's daughter "wanted to do what she can to restore his reputation".

Rosina Cottage QC, for the Crown Prosecution Service, said there was "no room" for the issue of consent to be considered by the jury during its deliberations because at the trial Clifford denied the alleged incidents had taken place.

He had maintained his relationships with women were "respectable", she said.

The court also heard that the CPS wanted Clifford's daughter to contribute towards the costs of the appeal.

The Court of Appeal has reserved judgment in the case.

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