Michael Le Vell: Jury sent out to consider verdict

THE jury in the trial of Coronation Street’s Michael Le Vell was told yesterday that it must decide if the alleged victim is telling the truth or set out to “quite literally destroy the life” of the actor.

Coronation Street actor Michael Le Vell. Picture: PA

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.

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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 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.

Alisdair Williamson then gave the closing speech for the defence, telling jurors the girl’s claims were “inconsistent, incoherent and unbelievable.”

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.

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.