A Chessington businessman still believes his old friend Max Clifford is innocent of historic sex offences against women and girls after visiting the former publicist in prison.

Richard Hunt, 56, who ran training company BTSC and the Surrey Sports Centre on the Cambridge Road estate, said: “I went to see him. I was the first visitor, with his daughter Louise.

“It would be an understatement if I said he wasn’t upset.

“I’m quite a hard case sort of chap that doesn’t shed a tear easily, but I can say I virtually had tears in my eyes seeing him in such a harsh place.

“The guy on the next table was a convicted armed robber.”

Judge Anthony Leonard told Clifford his assaults were of “a very serious nature” that had left a victim feeling suicidal.

The former PR mogul, who lived in Hersham, manipulated women and girls into sexual situations, including at his office.

But Mr Hunt said: “I don’t believe that the justice system is fair. He said to me ‘Why would they put him in prison for something he hasn’t done?’ Hand on heart I don’t believe he did it.

“Sadly the national press who at one time loved him and paid him thousands of pounds for stories had decided to slaughter him.”

He added that in the 1980s “thousands of normal people and hundreds of my personal friends” would have “regularly pinched a girl’s bum or [touched] their boobs, but would never be prosecuted for it”.

He gave Benny Hill’s TV programme as an example of what was deemed acceptable in previous decades.

By contrast Judge Leonard said one of Clifford’s crimes, when he took a teenage model to his office and attempted to force his penis into her mouth, would now be considered rape.

- In an article we published on Thursday, May 24, we reported a claim by businessman Richard Hunt that Chris Huhne had a conversation with the convicted sex offender Max Clifford, prior to his conviction, about conditions in Wandsworth prison. We accept that the two met before either had been to prison, and the conversation did not therefore take place at the time we implied, nor could it have been about Mr Huhne’s actual experience of life in prison. We apologise for the errors in that regard and we further note that Mr Huhne denies there was ever any conversation about prison at all. 

  • UKIP activism

Mr Hunt is involved with the UK Independence Party (UKIP) on a national level, and organised last year’s Christmas function for the party.

He displays a framed, painted portrait of Mr Farage in his office at the Chessington Business Centre, a serviced office business in Cox Lane.

He said: “Nigel Farage’s offices were above Max Clifford’s [in Mayfair]. I got to know Nigel very personally.

“I hosted the UKIP Christmas ball at my house. It was fantastic. We had 280 people there, from all over the country. It was a good evening.”