Chief prosecutor: no Le Vell witch hunt
Date published: 12 September 2013
A TOP prosecutor has denied a celebrity witch hunt in the wake of the acquittal of Coronation Street star Michael Le Vell on child sex charges.
Nazir Afzal, the Crown Prosecution Service national lead on child sexual exploitation, said “nobody should be above the law” and it is the Crown’s job to look at evidence and decide on the right course.
His remarks come after Le Vell, known to millions of TV fans as the soap’s Kevin Webster, was cleared of all 12 child sex offences he faced at Manchester Crown Court.
48-year-old Le Vell’s aunt and several former “Coronation Street” colleagues claimed he had been taken to court because of his celebrity status.
Mr Afzal made an initial decision not to charge Le Vell in September 2011, but his ruling was overturned later and the prosecution went ahead.
Mr Afzal stressed that each case was assessed on its own merits, regardless of any public profile.
“I absolutely detest this word ‘witch–hunt’. It is not a witch–hunt,” he said. “We look at the evidence. We follow the evidence. We present the evidence. I am not shy about pursuing these cases and will continue to do so.”
He said he himself had been spoken of as a “celeb hunter”: “I don’t even know what a ‘celeb hunter’ is; nobody should be above the law.”
Speaking of the Le Vell trial, actor Ken Morley, who played supermarket manager Reg Holdsworth in “Coronation Street”, said: “There was never any physical or forensic evidence or psychiatric report. I think it will make people revise their attitudes and realise there has been an element of hysteria.”
Le Vell’s aunt, Pat Gallier, said: “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.”
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