Michael Le Vell case was no celebrity witch-hunt, says prosecutor

Most child sex abusers are not public figures and must be pursued, insists senior lawyer

Crime Correspondent

A senior prosecutor who was over-ruled after deciding not to charge Coronation Street’s Michael Le Vell with child sex crimes today rejected claims of a celebrity witch-hunt following the actor’s acquittal.

Nazir Afzal, the senior Crown Prosecution Service lawyer on child sexual exploitation, said that policies to pursue alleged offenders would continue unchanged despite criticisms by the actor’s family and supporters that he was targeted because of his public profile.

The prosecutor said that abusers could not be allowed to get away with their crimes and contested critics’ claims that there was a desire for prominent scalps. It followed years of failings by the criminal justice system in the case of Jimmy Savile.

Mr Afzal made the initial decision not to charge Mr Le Vell, 48, after he was arrested in 2011, but the decision was later reversed by a senior colleague in 2013 after the victim made further allegations and her mother contested the decision.

The actor was cleared by a jury on Monday of 12 child sex offences after a trial when his accuser’s credibility became the pivotal issue for the jury to decide. She had claimed that she had been raped and abused while a young girl.

Speaking at an event organised by Lancashire police, Mr Afzal said: “I absolutely detest this word ‘witch-hunt’. It is not a witch-hunt. We look at the evidence, we follow the evidence, we present the evidence.

“I am not shy about pursuing these type of cases and will continue to do so,” he said. “The vast majority of child sex abusers are not your public figures... and they cannot be allowed to get away with it because of some discourse about ‘This is some kind of campaign’ that is following what happened with Savile or Cyril Smith or whoever it may be. Invariably if it is child sexual abuse it will be in the public interest to prosecute it.”

The CPS said it had concluded there was sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction and it was in the public interest to put the case before a jury.

Mr Le Vell’s aunt, Pat Gallier, told the Daily Mail: “The police seem to be arresting celebrities and accusing them of child sex offences without seeming to check if there’s enough evidence. Michael’s been caught up in this witch-hunt.”

The comedian Jim Davidson had used the phrase “witch-hunt” of Scotland Yard’s Operation Yewtree inquiry before he was arrested on sex abuse allegations. Mr Davidson learned last month that he will not be charged with any offence following complaints by ten women.

Max Clifford, the prominent PR man, had also warned that the Yard’s inquiry could turn into a witch-hunt after being contacted by prominent celebrities from the 1960s and 70s who were worried about potential prosecution. Mr Clifford was later arrested and charged with 11 counts of indecent assault, and will stand trial next year.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most