Coronation St star cleared of rape charges

British actor Michael Turner, who uses the stage name Michael Le Vell, smiles as he speaks to the media outside Manchester Crown Court. Photo / AFP
British actor Michael Turner, who uses the stage name Michael Le Vell, smiles as he speaks to the media outside Manchester Crown Court. Photo / AFP

One of Britain's top soap stars, Coronation Street actor Michael Le Vell, has been cleared of 12 charges of child sex abuse, including five counts of rape.

The 48-year-old, who has played car mechanic Kevin Webster for three decades in the ITV soap, was found not guilty by a jury in the northern city of Manchester, where Coronation Street is set.

All the charges related to one 14-year-old girl.

They also included three counts of indecent assault, two of sexual activity with a child and two of causing a child to engage in sexual activity.

Le Vell's lawyer said the case had been a "prosecution by cliche'' and that the actor was an innocent man accused of "the most unbelievable and terrible thing''.

Jurors took just under five hours to reach their verdicts.

Judge Michael Henshell said they faced a stark decision on the truth in that either the girl had entered the witness box to recall traumatic events she had suffered or she was a dishonest person who had come to court to "quite literally destroy'' the life of the defendant.

The "demons'' in Le Vell's private life were laid bare in the trial - his alcoholism and womanising while his wife battled breast cancer.

But while Le Vell might be described as a "weak, stupid and drunk man'' and a "bad husband'', he was not a child rapist, his barrister told the jury.

Le Vell, who had mouthed "thank you'' to the jury as the verdict was read out, had told police the girl's accusations were "an absolute pack of lies''.

Emerging from the court, an emotional Le Vell thanked his family, fans and ITV for their support, and said he was "delighted'' with the verdict.

He has not appeared in Coronation Street since legal proceedings were launched earlier this year, but is expected to return.

- Agencies

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