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Max Clifford 'bullied girls into sex acts over 20 years'

PR guru Max Clifford thought he was "untouchable" as he used his celebrity connections to "bully and manipulate" girls and young women into sex acts over a 20-year period, a court has heard.

As his trial over a string of alleged indecent assaults got under way today, London's Southwark Crown Court heard that the 70-year-old preyed on girls by pretending to be Hollywood bigwigs and boasting about his famous contacts.

Clifford, famed as a celebrity agent, is accused of 11 counts of indecent assault relating to seven alleged victims between 1966 and 1984, all of which he denies.

Opening the case against him, prosecutor Rosina Cottage QC told the jury of six women and six men that the PR consultant treated his office as his own "sexual playground", taking "what he wanted when he wanted".

Ms Cottage told the court: "The defendant used his contact with famous people to bully and manipulate these young people into sexual acts with him.

"In his actions, we say he breached the trust of parents he had encouraged to trust him and young women seeking jobs in the world in which he worked."

Clifford, wearing a grey blazer with a white shirt and dark trousers, listened to proceedings from the glass-walled dock using a hearing loop, shaking his head several times as the allegations against him were outlined to the jury.

The court heard that the alleged victims stayed silent for years, thinking they would not believed, but started to come forward in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal.

As well as several alleged victims to whom the 11 charges relate, there are a number of witnesses who claim they too were indecently assaulted by Clifford, the court heard.

Ms Cottage said Clifford claimed to have had sexual encounters with "many women", but only ever consensually.

The 70-year-old was first arrested in December 2012, when his homes in Hersham and the Cotswolds, as well as his offices, were searched, the court heard.

Clifford denies all charges and the case, which is due to last around six weeks, was adjourned until Monday morning.

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