CORONATION Street actor Michael Le Vell denied a series of child sex offences when he appeared in court today.
The star, who plays car mechanic Kevin Webster in the ITV soap, answered “Not guilty” 19 times in a clear, strong voice as each of the individual charges were put to him by the clerk during the brief hearing at Manchester Crown Court.
The 48-year-old is charged under his real name of Michael Turner with 19 offences in all, including six counts of raping a child, six allegations of indecently assaulting a child and seven counts of sexual activity with a child.
The alleged offences relate to one complainant and all took place between 2001 and 2010.
Today’s hearing was for the defendant to enter his pleas and arrange administrative matters for a forthcoming trial later this year.
Eleanor Laws QC, prosecuting, asked for the indictment to be put to the defendant, addressed as Michael Robert Turner, who then denied all the charges.
Le Vell remained seated for most of the 15-minute hearing, which was largely taken up by Ms Laws and Le Vell’s barrister, Alisdair Williamson, making case management arrangements for the forthcoming trial, expected to last up to two weeks, later this year.
At the end of the hearing Judge Michael Henshell addressed the defendant.
“Stand up, Mr Turner,” he said.
“Your trial will take place on the 2nd of September; you remain on bail in that time, subject to the same conditions.”
Le Vell bowed his head and replied: “Thank you.”
Earlier, photographers and TV camera crews swarmed around the actor as he arrived at court with his legal team and a minder.
Le Vell, from Hale, Cheshire, was first arrested in September 2011 and questioned over child sex allegations but the matter was later dropped.
However in January, the Crown Prosecution Service said it was in the public interest to charge him with the current offences following a review of evidence.
The father of two, originally from Manchester, is one of TV’s most famous faces after playing garage owner and mechanic Kevin Webster for the past 30 years.
He began his showbusiness career at the Oldham Theatre Workshop after taking an interest in amateur dramatics while at school.
Le Vell first joined Coronation Street 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 girls, Rosie and Sophie.
The actor split from his wife, Janette Beverley, last year.
ITV has said he will not be appearing in any further episodes of the soap pending the outcome of legal proceedings.
In a statement following his arrest, Le Vell, who is currently on bail, said he was innocent of the charges and intended to “fight them vigorously”.