Jury sent out to decide Michael Le Vell's fate
The jury in the trial of Coronation Street's Michael Le Vell was told today it must decide if the alleged victim is telling the truth or set out to "quite literally destroy the life" of the actor.
The eight women and four male jurors were sent out to consider their verdicts after being told by Judge Michael Henshell that their assessment of the alleged victim was "critical in this case."
Le Vell, 48, who has played garage mechanic Kevin Webster in the ITV1 soap for 30 years, is accused of sexually assaulting and raping the youngster, who cannot be named for legal reasons.
The actor, a father of two, sat listening to final legal submissions as his family members watched from the public gallery beside press benches packed with reporters at Manchester Crown Court.
An upstairs public gallery was also filled with members of the public awaiting the outcome of the week-long trial.
Le Vell, being tried under his real name of Michael Turner, denies five counts of rape, three of indecent assault, two counts of sexual activity with a child, and two of causing a child to engage in sexual activity.
The jury was sent home for the evening and will return at 10.30am to resume its deliberations.
Earlier Eleanor Laws QC, prosecuting, told the jury the "courage" of the alleged sex abuse victim must be marked by guilty verdicts if she was telling the truth.
His accuser had no reason to lie and the only explanation for her allegations was that it was the "uncomfortable truth", Miss Laws said.
"You saw her as bubbly, lovely, naive, so lovely," she said. "She was not twisted."
Miss Laws told the jury: "You are the most important people in the courtroom.
"It is you who decide the facts. At the end of the day it is your collective decision that is important."
She said they may have "strong feelings" about these type of allegations.
"For example, before we started this trial, some of you may have thought there seems to be a lot of prosecutions of celebrities," she said.
"'Is there some kind of witch-hunt? Has the world gone mad?'
"No one likes to think that someone they liked or admired has done anything like this."
She said they may also think that it was "such an easy allegation to make" but "difficult to defend".
But crimes like this did take place and could go undetected for years, she said.
Miss Laws continued: "Look very carefully at (the alleged victim's) evidence and cast your mind to this time last week when you were looking at her and listening to her evidence.
"What was your reaction? That is what counts. Nothing more, nothing less.
"Was she a wicked, convincing liar or did you sit there and think to yourself that she was telling the truth because that is all she can do?"
Le Vell sat behind Miss Laws in the glass dock and listened intently, often leaning forward.
Miss Laws went on to say that the alleged victim had had several opportunities to withdraw the allegations - including when the Crown Prosecution Service initially reviewed the case and did not press charges.
Even as the trial date approached, she still had a choice as to whether to give evidence as a witness, she said.
The reality was that there was no reason for her to lie, said Miss Laws.
"It is absolutely the truth," she said. "There is no other reason that holds water.
"What has she got to gain from all of that? Absolutely nothing, unless it is the truth and that is what she wants to tell you.
"If you are sure that she is telling the truth and not lying, then it is your duty to mark her courage from the witness box with convictions."
Alisdair Williamson then gave the closing speech for the defence, telling jurors the girl's claims were "inconsistent, incoherent and unbelievable."
He began by saying it was a "strange case of child rape" without any evidence of blood or semen or injuries to the alleged victim.
"Welcome to the prosecution's hall of mirrors," he told the jury. "Where up is down and left is right."
"You are going to throw a man's life away? You are going to cast him to the outer darkness of
being a child rapist?" Mr Williamson continued.
"Where is the consistency, the solidity of evidence on which you are going to be sure?
"Not there, simply not there."
Mr Williamson said the defendant was a "drunk, bad husband and inadequate father" whose behaviour was sometimes "terrible", but he is not a child rapist.
He continued: "This has been, you may have thought, a prosecution by cliche.
"Mr Turner drinks a lot, he has his demons. What's that supposed to mean?
"He has troubles. What's that supposed to mean?
"That's all the Crown can come up with for a motive."
Mr Williamson then asked the jury to consider Le Vell's own evidence from the witness box during a "ferocious cross-examination" by prosecutor Miss Laws QC.
"Did you think he was acting or was his evidence the scared and frightened evidence of a man who faces the most unbelievable and terrible thing ever to happen to a man - a girl saying he raped her?
"He's a man, a weak man, a stupid man, a drunk man, but nothing in this case has taken you anywhere near, I suggest, the level of certainty you would need so you can look in the mirror in the days that come and say 'I was sure'."
Summing up the evidence before sending the jury out, Judge Michael Henshell warned: "Do not allow sympathy to cloud your judgment for either side."
And he said what jurors had made of the girl's tearful testimony was vital in deciding their verdicts.
He said if the Crown was right and she was a truthful witness then she was someone who was recalling traumatic events from an early age.
The other side of the coin was that she was "dishonest" and had come to court to "quite literally destroy" the life of the defendant, he said.
The jury was sent out at 3.51pm to consider its verdicts but told by Judge Henshell he was not expecting any verdicts tonight and they should use the time left today to select a foreman.
Jurors were brought back into court at 4.20pm and sent home to continue their deliberations tomorrow morning.