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.

Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again say analysts

News
A Brazilian wandering spider
news

World's most lethal spider found under a bunch of bananas

Life and Style
fashion

British supermodel and hitmaker join forces to launch a 'huge song'

News
news

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge announce they are set to welcome second child in spring

News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually a challenging and nuanced title

Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in the win over QPR
footballInternet reacts to miss shocker for Liverpool striker
News
news

Footage shot by a passerby shows moment an ill man was carried out of his burning home

Voices
Sol Campbell near his home in Chelsea
voices
News
i100
News
Kimi the fox cub
newsBurberry under fire from animal rights group - and their star, Kimi
Sport
Fans of Palmeiras looks dejected during the match between Palmeiras and Santos
footballPalmeiras fan killed trying to 'ambush' bus full of opposition supporters
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
filmsIt's nearly a wrap on Star Wars: Episode 7, producer reveals
News
i100
Travel
travel

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past