THE CRIMES OF THE NONCE MATT CLIFFORD

Max Clifford – Guilty verdicts in historic sex cases

max clifford

Introduction

On  28th April 2014 Max Clifford was convicted on 8 counts of indecent assault, not guilty of 2 and the jury could not decide on the last count (it is likely that there will not be a retrial on this).
The jury retired on 16th April. After five days of deliberation (including the Easter break) a majority direction was given on 23rd April. There were only 10 jurors and so a verdict had to be 10-0 or 9-1.
This post will be edited as more information becomes available.

Charges

Mr Clifford faced the following charges :
  • Count 1 – Indecent Assault relating to a girl aged 14 in 1966 – No verdict
  •  Count 2 – Indecent Assault relating to woman aged 18, in 1974/75- NOT GUILTY
  •  Count 3,4,5,6 – Indecent Assault relating to a girl, aged 15, in 1977/78 – GUILTY on all counts
  •  Count 7 – Indecent Assault relating to a woman, aged 19, in 1978 – NOT GUILTY
  •  Count 8 – Indecent Assault relating to a girl, aged 19, in 1981/82 – GUILTY
  •  Count 9,10 – Indecent Assault relating to a girl, aged 16 or 17, in 1980′s – GUILTY on both
  •  Count 11 – Indecent Assault relating to a woman, aged 18, in 1984/85 – GUILTY

This means that Mr Clifford has been convicted of 8 offences relating to four victims, all young women aged between 15 and 19.
We have some more details of the offending courtesy of Mark Williams-Thomas (and from the Daily Mail) :
Counts 3-6 – “when she was alone with Clifford, he told her to take her top and bra off because he needed to see her breasts. He later forced her to perform sex acts while he assaulted her.” It seems that Count 3 was getting the victim to masturbate him, Count 4 was digital penetration, Count 5 penile penetration of the victim’s mouth and Count 6 was Mr Clifford giving the victim oral sex.
Count 8 – the victim (during a pseudo-audition) “posed for the photos, but when Clifford asked her to open her legs, she refused. He then tried to grab and kiss her and pushed her down on a sofa, but she fought him off, kicking him in the groin,”
Counts 9-10 – During another ‘interview’ the victim was asked to strip which she did. Mr Clifford’s wife then rang and Mr Clifford began to masturbate whilst talking to her and then “tried to force the girl to perform a sex act on him.” It seems that Count 9 involved Mr Clifford touching the victim’s breast and Count 10 an attempt by Mr Clifford to force penile penetration of her mouth. This was unsuccessful, but he ejaculated over her.

Count 11 – “Clifford allegedly approached an 18-year-old in a nightclub, after asking if she wanted a film role. It was claimed he made a call and handed the phone to the dancer; the man on the other end said she could have a screen test if she confirmed whether Clifford was circumcised. Clifford then went to a toilet cubicle with her and forced her to masturbate him, prosecutors claim.”

Sentencing

Mr Clifford falls to be sentenced for the 8 offences of which he was convicted of. The maximum sentence on all these offences is 2 years (this is due to the ages of the victims and the age of the offending.
We have a factsheet on sentencing for historic offences. The Sexual Offences Guidelines will apply (notwithstanding these are historic offences), at least they will be the starting point.
Sentence will be passed on Friday. It is inevitably going to be a custodial sentence for Mr Clifford but predicting the length is difficult, but the fact that he has been released on bail until then does not mean that he will not be going to prison – it is very common nowadays. Mr Clifford will clearly attend.
What will he get? It’s worth saying straightaway that the sentence he would get if he committed these acts is far, far higher than he will get. This is not to do with his celebrity, or anything to do with the Judge’s assessment of the case, but purely because of the fact that the maximum legal sentence for each of these is two years.
If these offences were committed today, then they would be charged as follows:
It can be seen straight away that this offending is in a different league from that suggested by the name of the offence (Indecent Assault). This is because at the time of the offending rape was limited to penile penetration of the vagina. Even where the name of the offence is similar, sexual assault for example, the maximum sentence is 10 years rather than 2.
Count 5 is the most serious. Looking at the Guidelines (page 10) this would be a Category 2 case with higher culpability (Culpability A as it is put). This is because she was under 16, vulnerable, there was a breach of trust and threats issued to her. The starting point would therefore be 10 years with a range of 9-13 years.
Counts 4 and 10 would have a similar, if slightly lower, range. Count 4 would have a starting point of 8 years, with the remaining counts being significantly lower (but all but possibly Counts 8 and 9 would merit custody in isolation).
For this offending nowadays we would expect a sentence, after a trial, of 10-12 years. This is slightly lower than the starting points identified above (when taken together), but would fairly reflect the offending and other factors.
This makes the Judge’s task a very difficult one. He has to respect the fact that Parliament at the time took these offences a lot less seriously than they do now. He can pass consecutive sentences, but cannot give anywhere close to 10 years in prison here.  It seems to me wrong in principle to pass consecutive sentences on one victim taking the sentence over the maximum (or, at least, too much over the maximum).
To my mind, a fair sentence would be 2 years on Counts 3-6, 6 months on Count 8 and Count 9, 18 months on Count 10 and 12 months on Count 11. Making these consecutive between victims gives a sentence of 5 years. This is too long given the sentencing at the time. Stuart Hall got 30 months for less serious offending (but, as we noted, this decision was far from satisfactory), but I would imagine that the ‘best’ the Judge can properly do is 3½ years. This can be achieved by making some sentences concurrent, or reducing some to allow for totality.
Whilst 3½ years is very low on the face of it, it is right at the top of what I think would be lawful (and if it wasn’t for some of the recent AG References, I would have thought 2-3 years would have been the most), given the law as it was in the 1970s and 1980s. One thing that I will safely predict is that whatever the sentence, there will be public outrage from some quarters and calls for an Attorney-General’s Reference.

 Further Reading

See here for the Stuart Hall AG Ref and the Graham Ovenden AG Ref where some of the sentencing issues are discussed.

How does this relate to the other cases?

By ‘other cases’ you mean Dave Lee Travis, Bill Roache, Nigel Evans, you know, celebrities (but presumably not Stuart Hall)?
Officially, nothing. As the Judge in the Max Clifford case said those are irrelevant. One might think that, if they were completely separate, there would be no need to mention that they weren’t connected. However, if the defence have raised the issue (as has featured in a number of celebrity historic sexual abuse trials) then the Judge may have felt he had to deal with it. Alternatively, even if the defence didn’t raise it, the Judge might have felt the issue needed dealing with as some members of the jury may need reminding that they are to try the case only on what they have heard in court and not any extraneous factors such as the ‘shadow’ of the Jimmy Savile abuse.

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