CAMPAIGNERS have described the conviction of publicist Max Clifford for a string of indecent assaults on teenage girls as proof the police inquiry into alleged celebrity sex offenders is not a "witch hunt".
Clifford, 71, who has represented a number of household names, used his influence to manipulate impressionable young women and girls into giving him sexual favours, saying it would help them meet big names.
Clifford, of Surrey, was found guilty yesterday of eight indecent assaults after eight days of deliberations by jurors at Southwark Crown Court, London. He left court with his daughter Louise and said: "I have been told by my lawyers to say nothing at all."
He will be sentenced on Friday and was warned he could be jailed.
Judge Anthony Leonard, QC, told him: "You must realise the fact I have given you bail is no indication of what the final sentence will be."
Clifford is the first person to be convicted following the Metropolitan Police's Operation Yewtree investigation into alleged sex abuse by celebrities. It was set up after alleged victims went to the police following the publicity surrounding Jimmy Savile. After his death he was exposed as a predatory sex offender who had never been caught.
Lawyer Liz Dux, who represents more than 150 complainants said: "This verdict proves Yewtree was not a celebrity witch hunt. Some predatory people used their fame, money and celebrity to groom and then abuse the vulnerable.
"I hope this verdict sends a firm message - no longer will abusers like Clifford be shrouded in silence. Victims now have a voice and Britain will never return to the dark days of the 60s, 70s and 80s."
English Crown prosecutors and police have been criticised in recent weeks over the Yewtree inquiry. It followed not guilty verdicts handed down in the cases of Coronation Street stars Bill Roache and Michael Le Vell.
Former Radio 1 DJ Dave-Lee Travis was also recently cleared of a string of sex assaults, but has subsequently been charged with another offence. MP Nigel Evans, the former Deputy Commons Speaker, was also acquitted of sex assaults against young males.
Holly Dustin, of the End Violence Against Women group, said: "Recent political attacks on the Crown Prosecution Service are unwarranted and must stop."
Clifford had repeatedly denied the claims against him, calling his arrest and prosecution "a nightmare" and branding his accusers "fantasists".
But the disgraced publicist sat still in the dock as his fate was revealed, breathing deeply as he listened through a hearing loop.
Jurors heard he offered to get victims casting appointments, pretending to be big Hollywood names, including directors and producers Steven Spielberg, Albert "Cubby" Broccoli and Michael Winner.
Clifford abused one girl a number of times after he met her family on holiday in Spain in 1977 when she was 15.
Detective Chief Inspector Michael Orchard thanked the victims for giving evidence, adding: "While this was a high profile trial, officers work tirelessly to being offenders of sexual abuse to justice on a daily basis."
Jenny Hopkins, deputy chief Crown prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service in London, said the verdicts provided "long denied justice" to his victims.
Clifford was cleared of two indecent assault charges, but the CPS said it would consider its next move after they were unable to reach a decision about a further groping allegation.