Coronation Street's Le Vell cleared of child rape

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Media captionMichael Le Vell told reporters that he was "delighted" by the verdict and thanked his family for their support

Coronation Street actor Michael Le Vell has been cleared of a number of child sex abuse charges, including rape.

Mr Le Vell, 48, who plays Kevin Webster in the soap, had denied 12 charges in total, telling the jury he was "fighting for his life".

His accuser, who cannot be named, claimed she was abused from the age of six until she was 14.

Speaking outside court, he thanked his family and ITV for their support. He is now expected to return to the soap.

'Two years of hell'

Mr Le Vell, of Hale, Greater Manchester, was tried at Manchester Crown Court under his real name Michael Turner.

The jury of eight women and four men took just over four hours to return verdicts of not guilty on all counts.

The actor had also faced charges of indecent assault, sexual activity with a child and causing a child to engage in sexual activity.

As he left the court he said he was "delighted" and that the result was "a weight off everyone's shoulders".

Mr Le Vell's friend and former Coronation Street star Nigel Pivaro, who played Terry Duckworth, said: "He has suffered two years of hell and, probably due to his high profile, far more than most.

"Now the jury has spoken, he can pick up his career and his life."

An ITV spokesman said: "We are looking forward to meeting with Michael to discuss his return to the programme."

Image caption Mr Le Vell, flanked by his family outside court, said he would now be "going for a drink"

His accuser, now aged 17, had told the court he had raped her while putting a teddy bear over her mouth to keep her quiet.

She alleged that he had told her he was "just getting rid of all the evil and bad inside me".

But Alisdair Williamson, for the defence, said her evidence was "inconsistent" and "unbelievable" with an "agonising lack of detail".

'Dark secret'

During the trial Mr Le Vell admitted he was an alcoholic who had a series of one-night stands throughout his 25-year marriage.

Mr Williamson told the jury that while Mr Le Vell might be described as a "weak, stupid and drunk man" and a "bad husband", he was not a child rapist.

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Media captionCoronation Street actor Nigel Pivaro: "Michael is an innocent man"

He was initially arrested on 30 September, 2011, but the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decided not to proceed with the case.

However, after a review of the evidence following fresh allegations by the girl, Mr Le Vell was re-arrested and charged in February 2013.

The CPS said the decision to prosecute Mr Le Vell was taken after officials concluded there was "sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction".

A spokesperson said: "As these were very serious allegations of child sexual abuse it therefore followed that it was in the public interest to place that evidence before a jury at court.

"It is for the jury to determine whether a defendant is guilty or not and we of course respect the verdicts they have reached today."

During the trial, Mr Le Vell told the court he was "like a lost soul" who wanted to know why he was being accused.

"Never in a million years would I do anything like that," he said.

Mr Le Vell first joined Coronation Street in 1983 and his character Kevin Webster proved popular with fans throughout his stormy marriage to Sally, played by Sally Dynevor.

He did not appear in any episodes of the soap during the legal proceedings.

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