Coronation Street actor Michael Le Vell in court on child sex charges

 

Coronation Street actor Michael Le Vell has made his first appearance in court accused of child sex offences.

The star, who plays car mechanic Kevin Webster in the ITV soap, appeared at Manchester Magistrates' Court under his real name of Michael Turner.

The 48-year-old has been charged with 19 offences including six counts of raping a child, six allegations of indecently assaulting a child and seven counts of sexual activity with a child.

The alleged offences relate to one complainant and all took place between 2001 and 2010, the court was told.

During the short hearing, which lasted just eight minutes, the defendant, wearing a white shirt and black tie, spoke only to confirm his name, address and date of birth.

Four members of his family sat towards the back of the court on seats usually reserved for officials as the public gallery was packed with members of the media.

District Judge Khalid Qureshi asked Le Vell's solicitor, Richard Gowthorpe, if there was any indication of plea, to which he replied: "No indication of plea today other than the fact that the charges are contested, and will be fully contested in the Crown Court."

The matter was adjourned to Manchester Crown Court on March 20.

Le Vell was bailed on condition that he surrenders his passport, does not contact named witnesses and does not have unsupervised contact with any child under the age of 14.

The actor, who was following the proceedings from the dock, nodded to the judge when asked if he understood the conditions.

He made no comment as he left court.

Le Vell was first arrested in September 2011 and questioned over alleged child sex offences, but the matter was later dropped.

Earlier this month the Crown Prosecution Service said it was in the public interest to charge him with the current offences following a review of evidence.

Mr Gowthorpe told the court the allegations were "most serious" and added: "The circumstances of the arrest and investigation have been unusual.

"There are 19 charges now and it has been almost 18 months since his arrest."

Le Vell, a father of two, is one of TV's most famous faces after playing garage owner and mechanic Webster for the past 30 years.

The star, originally from Manchester, began his showbusiness career in the Oldham Theatre Workshop after taking an interest in amateur dramatics while at school.

He first joined Coronation Street in 1983 and quickly endeared himself to fans who have followed the trials and tribulations of Kevin, from Brian Tilsley's apprentice mechanic through to his stormy marriage to Sally, played by Sally Dynevor, and fathering two girls, Rosie and Sophie, as well as a son, Jack, from his affair with Molly Dobbs.

The actor split from his wife, Janette Beverley, last year.

ITV has said he will not be appearing in any further episodes of the soap pending the outcome of legal proceedings.

In a statement following his arrest, Le Vell, from Altrincham, Greater Manchester, said he was innocent of the charges and intended to "fight them vigorously".

PA

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