Leading judges hear bid to clear name of disgraced celebrity agent Max Clifford

Disgraced celebrity publicist Max Clifford denied “until his death” that he had sexually assaulted young women.

His case is being scrutinised by leading judges, more than a year after the 74-year-old died while serving an eight-year prison sentence for indecent assault.

Before his death from heart failure in December 2017, Clifford won the right for his fight to overturn his conviction to be heard at the Court of Appeal.

His daughter Louise, who has continued the challenge on her late father’s behalf, was at the hearing in London on Tuesday.

Max Clifford with his daughter Louise in 2014
Max Clifford with his daughter Louise in 2014

Sarah Forshaw QC, for Clifford, told Lady Justice Rafferty, Mr Justice Goss and Sir Brian Keith that in relation to the importance of the appeal, the fact that he had died did not matter “one jot”.

Clifford, from Hersham in Surrey, was jailed in May 2014 after being convicted of a string of indecent assaults, carried out between 1977 and 1984, using his celebrity connections to lure women.

He branded his accusers “fantasists” and denied the charges, but was convicted at London’s Southwark Crown Court.

He was sentenced to a total of eight years on eight counts of indecent assault relating to four victims.

Ms Forshaw told the three judges that grounds of appeal related to “fresh evidence”, and “misdirections or inadequate directions” by the trial judge.

The QC added: “I say that with the greatest respect to the trial judge who was steering a lengthy and difficult trial.”

One of the complaints was the “removal” of the issue of consent, or “belief in consent”, from the jury.

Ms Forshaw said if the court found that Clifford’s convictions on the eight counts, or some of them, were “unsafe”, then the fact that he was dead “won’t matter one jot”.

She said that in his first police interview Clifford said: “I wish to emphasise that I have never forced any female to engage in any form of sexual activity with me against their will.”

The QC added: “So it was he flatly denied the scenarios these women were painting. The complainants were painting scenarios involving forced sexual activity, which he would always deny, and denied until his death.”

Sentencing Clifford after his trial, Judge Anthony Leonard said his personality and position in the public eye were the reasons his crimes were not revealed earlier.

The former celebrity agent vowed to clear his name, claiming he was wrongly convicted.