On Thursday 7th March at Southwark Crown Court the trial of Max Clifford began. Clifford has pleaded not guilty to eleven counts of indecent assault involving seven victims.
As with all criminal trials the Jury will have been told that it is for the prosecution to evidence to the Jury that Clifford is guilty ‘upon reasonable doubt’ of the allegations. As with all cases, the Judge emphasised to the jury that they should reach a verdict upon the evidence placed before them in Court and not to be swayed by anything they may read or hear in the media elsewhere. This is particularly relevant given that the case involves an individual who has been in the public eye for many years and the case has already attracted a lot of media attention.
As with other recent celebrity trials, the victims in this case came forward after the allegations against the late Jimmy Savile came to public notice in October 2012 although in this particular case it is believed the Jury will hear evidence from one of the victims who was compelled to write to Clifford about the assault against her some years ago. It will be interesting to see whether or not the letter which has formed part of the media coverage to date which is alleged to have been seized from Clifford's home forms part of the Prosecution case and exhibits.
The coming weeks will be difficult for the victims, however as sexual and physical abuse Solicitors we hope that they will be supported and guided by the Police and Crown Prosecution Service. Whilst taking part in a criminal hearing can be a daunting prospect, changes have been made to assist in making the process as easy as it can be for victims for example victims are entitled to remain anonymous throughout proceedings and can give evidence either behind a screen or via a video link.
Once the Prosecution witnesses have given their evidence the Jury will then hear evidence from the defence which may or may not include Max Clifford giving evidence. Clifford is not obliged under criminal law to give evidence in Court and can merely choose to elect for his Police interview to be the only evidence to go before them. It will remain to be seen as to whether he will call any witnesses himself either in support of his defence or to provide evidence as to his character.
We will be following the trial over the coming weeks.
If you have been affected by sexual or physical abuse and you would like to speak with a Solicitor, call Slater and Gordon Lawyers for a free confidential consultation on freephone 0800 916 9046 or contact us online.
Jessica Standley is a Solicitor specialising in sexual and physical abuse cases at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in London.