Celebrity publicist Max Clifford smiled as he was handed down an eight-year prison sentence for eight counts of indecent assault.

Clifford, 71, was convicted of assaulting four women aged between 15 and 19 between 1977 and 1984.

He was cleared of a further two charges of indecent assault, with the jury failing to reach a verdict on one more additional count.

As he left the dock to begin his sentence a woman in the public gallery, packed with Cliffords' family and his now middle-aged victims, cried out: "Good!"

The PR guru denied all the charges against him. Arriving at Southwark Crown Court before sentencing, he told reporters: "I stand by everything I have said in the last 17 months."

Judge Anthony Leonard told Clifford that if the crimes had occurred after 2003 – when the maximum term for indecent assault was increased - he would have faced a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

The judge also referred to allegations that Clifford molested a 12-year-old girl in a jacuzzi in Spain. He said he would have been charged with this alleged offence if a prosecution could have been brought in the UK.

Clifford was described during the trial as a "master in the art of intimidation" who used his celebrity connections to "bully and manipulate" girls and young women into sex acts.

The court heard that he convinced one 18-year-old aspiring actress that she could meet David Bowie if she performed a sex act on him and he promised another woman a role in a James Bond film. He told one of the victims he groomed he would help her become the UK's version of Jodie Foster.

Upon sentencing, the judge described how Clifford had led a "double existence" for decades. He added his personality and public image also played a part in him not being brought to justice sooner.

He said: "The reason why they were not brought to light sooner was because of your own dominant character and your position in the world of entertainment which meant that your victims thought that you were untouchable, something that I think you too believed."

In a victim statement read out to court, one woman said she would cry whenever she saw him on television. Another said the assault had an impact on her relationship with her parents because she felt that "she had deceived them". A third said she felt as if her "life was over" following the assault.

Some of the women also said how they "gave up their dreams" of being in showbusiness because they feared they would come across more people like Clifford.

Behaved dismissively and arrogantly

Clifford was arrested in December 2012 under Operation Yewtree, the investigation into sex offence allegations involving Jimmy Savile and others.

Clifford is the first high-profile conviction under Yewtree. Liz Dux, a lawyer who represents more than 150 people who have made complaints to Yewtree detectives, said that Clifford's conviction showed that the inquiry was not just a not a "celebrity witch-hunt".

Peter Watt, director of National Services at the NSPCC, said Clifford "exploited [his vicitms'] vulnerabilities, using lies and coercion to get what he wanted."

He added: "Throughout the court case Clifford has behaved dismissively and arrogantly towards his victims and the suffering he has caused them. He made them go through a long and painful court case and relive their traumatic experiences by not pleading guilty."

Alison Saunders, director of Public Prosecution, thanked all the victims involved in the trial for coming forward.

She added: "Research is clear that sexual offences are severely under-reported and I want to provide reassurance to any victim that the Crown Prosecution Service will continue to make decisions based on the evidence and in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors.

"I hope this provides other victims with the courage and confidence to come forward and report abuse that may have happened to them, no matter who is alleged to have carried out the abuse or when."