Yesterday, after deliberating for over 37 hours, Max Clifford was convicted under Operation Yewtree of eight counts of indecent assault. Given the acquittals of William Roache, David Patrick Griffin ‘Dave Lee Travis’ (so far), and MP Nigel Evans, my first reaction was not only one of a surprise but I am sorry to say, one of discomfort too. I have absolutely no desire to under-estimate or otherwise devalue a victim of sexual abuse and certainly, I have no reason to doubt the witnesses in any of these cases. Nor do I want to suggest that Max Clifford must somehow be innocent. I am not sure that the acquittals above signalled innocence either albeit, I did not follow those cases closely. Mind you, some of those witnesses in the case of Nigel Evans, had not wanted to give evidence against him?
It is just in the knowledge that this case of Clifford, coincides with the on-going prosecution failures in relation to the Jimmy Saville scandal. What does it say about a system that had Dame Janet Smith, a former court of appeal judge, interview over 1,000 witnesses and lawyer Liz Dux represent 150 victims, when it does not seem to be capable of penetrating the wall of ‘alleged’ sex offenders to obtain a successful conviction? Accepting Stuart Hall pleaded guilty, we seem to be so impotent in challenging this social pus? Are there so many paedophiles in powerful positions that a mere 1,000 witnesses is simply not enough to destabilise them?
In which case, why Max Clifford? Perhaps the evidence was stronger? The sounds of relief coming from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), suggest maybe not. What if Max Clifford had been the first of those few prosecutions without the now desperate need for the CPS to undo it’s damaged reputation? And what if Max Clifford had not been a successful independent PR man unafraid to undermine some powerful politicians? Was it their elephant memories? Had Max Clifford been careless and forgotten to invest in a powerful network of friends on his way up?
Thankfully, this decision means some victims have now been validated for their courage and the miseries they have had to endure but it’s difficult. Possibly, Max Clifford has been thrown to us like a morsel off the bone whilst our ineffectual justice system begins its makeover, the face of success. Thus, we are invited to avert our eyes away from those ordinary looking sex offenders who blend neatly into the crevices of a powerful system. Of course, I am pleased there is a conviction but it leaves me with a bitter taste and a feeling that an unedifying trade-off has been made. No doubt, in 20 years time we are going to hear about another ‘Jimmy Saville’ scandal because this opportunity has been trashed. There will be future victims because, with 1,000 witnesses, we did not even touch the surface so what does it take? What does it really take?
To you Max Clifford I say, perhaps you have indeed been scapegoated but as a sex offender, you are not the concern. The PR advise I would give to you is to show some remorse by at least apologising to your victims, especially before Friday when the judge will dish out your sentence.