Michael Le Vell: Coronation Street star vows to fight abuse charges
CORONATION Street actor Michael Le Vell, who has been charged with child sex offences, said in a statement today that he is innocent of all charges and will "fight them vigorously".
Le Vell, 48, whose real name is Michael Turner, is accused of 19 sex offences including raping a child, indecently assaulting a child and sexual activity with a child.
He said: "I would like to make it quite clear that following the serious allegations that have been brought against me on Thursday 14th February 2013, I am innocent of these charges and intend to fight them vigorously.
"I will now put all my efforts into clearing my name and proving my innocence.
"I thank my friends, family and fans for their continued support.
"I would ask now for time to concentrate on preparing my defence with my legal team."
ITV have already said the actor will not be appearing in any further episodes of the soap pending the outcome of legal proceedings.
An ITV spokesman said: "Given the serious nature of these charges, Michael Le Vell will not be appearing in Coronation Street pending the outcome of legal proceedings. It would not be appropriate for us to comment further at this time."
Le Vell, a stalwart on the popular ITV series in his role as car mechanic Kevin Webster, will appear in court in two weeks' time, Greater Manchester Police (GMP) said.
He was first arrested in September 2011 and questioned over alleged child sex offences, but the matter was later dropped.
But late last night, GMP said the actor, from Hale, Cheshire, had been charged with sex offences against a youngster after a review of evidence by lawyers from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
A spokeswoman for GMP said: "A man has been charged with 19 child sex offences.
"Michael Turner, of Byrom Street, Hale, has been charged with 19 offences including raping a child, indecently assaulting a child and sexual activity with a child.
"He is due to appear at Manchester Magistrates' (court) on Wednesday, February 27.
"The charges, which were authorised by the CPS following a review of evidence, relate to offences against a child between 2001 and 2010."
Alison Levitt, QC, principal legal adviser to the director of public prosecutions, had reviewed a file of evidence in relation to allegations of sexual offences and looked again at a decision previously made not to prosecute.
Ms Levitt said: "I have very carefully reviewed the evidence in this case and I have concluded that there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest to charge Michael Robert Turner with a number of sexual offences.
"I have authorised Greater Manchester Police to charge Mr Turner with 19 offences, including rape of a child.
"Mr Turner has now been charged with criminal offences and has a right to a fair trial.
"As proceedings are now active, it would be inappropriate to say anything further at this stage."
Le Vell, a father-of-two, was not charged with offences after his initial arrest in September 2011 and the investigation was dropped three months later in late December, when the authorities said there would be no further action taken against him as there was not enough evidence to charge him.
At the time the actor said he was "delighted" to have been "completely exonerated", thanked police for their "thorough" investigation and Coronation Street staff and the public for their support.
Le Vell vowed to put the allegations behind him and returned to the show after a short break and is now currently involved in some of the soap's main storylines.
He is one of TV's most famous faces after playing Webster for the past 30 years.
Le Vell, originally from Manchester, began his acting career in the Oldham Theatre Workshop after taking an interest in amateur dramatics while at school.
He first joined the soap 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 teenage girls as well as a child from his affair with Molly Dobbs.
The actor split from his wife Janette Beverley last year.