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
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.
Israel-Gaza crisis: YouTube footage shows scale of destruction after 50 days of shelling
Keira Knightley topless: Conservative actress does own take on #Freethenipple campaign for Interview Magazine
iPhone 6 'hidden code' could indicate sharper screens or bigger phones
Joan Rivers: 'Palestinians deserve to be dead'
Ebola virus: It's ripped through towns – now the deadliest ever outbreak of the virus is heading for Africa's teeming cities
Robin Williams Emmys tribute led by Billy Crystal criticised for including 'racist' joke about Muslim woman
Rotherham child sex abuse scandal: Labour Home Office to be probed over what Tony Blair's government knew - and when
The Rotherham child abuse scandal is a tale of apologists, misogyny and double standards
What do immigrants really think of Britain? Polish immigrant's Reddit post goes viral
Do you realise just how foolish the UK looks?
With Douglas Carswell joining Ukip, my party has taken another giant step forward
- 1 Unseen Charlie and the Chocolate Factory chapter deemed 'too subversive' released
- 2 Ebola virus: It's ripped through towns – now the deadliest ever outbreak of the virus is heading for Africa's teeming cities
- 3 Joan Rivers: 'Palestinians deserve to be dead'
- 4 A teacher speaks out: 'I'm effectively being forced out of a career that I wanted to love'
- 5 Mexican woman becomes world’s 'oldest person' at 127