Celebrity Publicist Clifford Charged in Sex-Assault Probe

Max Clifford, a celebrity publicist who has represented O.J. Simpson, David Beckham and Simon Cowell, was charged by U.K. prosecutors with sexual offenses involving girls as young as 14 over almost two decades.

The claims involve seven teenagers allegedly abused from 1966 to 1985, when the oldest alleged victim was 19, British prosecutors said today in a statement. Clifford is scheduled to appear in a London criminal court on May 28.

“There is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest for Mr. Clifford to be charged,” Alison Saunders, the chief crown prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service, said in the statement.

Clifford, 70, was arrested in December by officers probing the abuse of hundreds of children over almost 50 years by people in the entertainment industry. The investigations began with accusations against the late British Broadcasting Corp. television star Jimmy Savile, whose alleged actions triggered a scandal at the world’s biggest broadcaster.

“These allegations are simply not the Max we all know,” Clifford’s lawyer, Charlotte Harris of Mishcon de Reya in London, said in an e-mail. “I and many of his friends and colleagues as well as ordinary members of the public have been behind him all the way and will continue to support him.”

Phone Hack

Clifford was the subject of media attention in Britain last year after he revealed he had been a victim of voice-mail interception by News Corp.’s now-defunct News of the World tabloid. He told a media-ethics inquiry triggered by that scandal that he personally negotiated a settlement of about 1 million pounds ($1.55 million) with Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive officer of News Corp.’s U.K. unit, who has been charged with phone-hacking violations and bribery.

The sexual-abuse probe was opened in October after broadcaster ITV Plc aired a story about Savile almost a year after his death at the age of 84. Savile was involved in sexual abuse on an “unprecedented scale,” police said.

Police have made about a dozen arrest in what’s being called Operation Yewtree, a probe targeting people who may have engaged in abuse with Savile or acted on their own during the same period. Other people arrested include singer Gary Glitter and former BBC disc jockey Dave Lee Travis.

Savile, who died in 2011, committed more than 200 criminal sexual-abuse offenses at the BBC, in schools and in more than a dozen hospitals, mental homes and a hospice, London police said in a final report about the former entertainer in January.

Savile wasn’t prosecuted while he was alive, even after four women made reports to two U.K. police departments in 2007 and 2008, in which they described abuse when they were children. Authorities across the U.K. have been ramping up investigations into allegations of historical sex-abuse claims following alleged failures related to Savile.

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