LONDON: Police have charged a long-time star of the British soap opera “Coronation Street” with child sex offences including rape and indecent assault.
Michael Le Vell, who has played mechanic Kevin Webster on the show for 30 years, faces 19 charges. Police say the charges relate to offences against a child between 2001 and 2010.
He was originally arrested and questioned in 2011, but released without charge.
Prosecutors said on Friday they had overturned that decision.
The 48-year-old actor, whose real name is Michael Turner, is due in court Feb. 27. The soap, set in a fictional working-class district in north-western England, is one of the most popular programmes on British television.
Broadcaster ITV said Le Vell would not appear in any episodes of “Coronation Street” pending the outcome of his trial.
Alison Levitt, principal legal adviser to the director of public Prosecutions, said she had reviewed a decision not to prosecute Le Vell following allegations made against him in 2011.
She 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.”
The actor, from Hale in Greater Manchester, has played the role of Webster for 30 years, making him one of the longest-serving performers in Coronation Street.
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.”
Speaking after the investigation against him was dropped in 2011, Le Vell 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.