Manchester actor Michael Le Vell has been dropped by Coronation Street after being charged with 19 child sex offences, including child rape and sexual activity with a child between 2001 and 2010, reports the BBC. Le Vell, 48, who played garage owner Kevin Webster in the ITV soap, is due to appear in court on February 27, 2013.
The father-of-two, who split with his wife last year, strenuously denies the charges. "I would like to make it quite clear that following the serious allegations that have been brought against me on Thursday 14th February 2013, I am innocent of these charges and intend to fight them vigorously," he said in a statement, "I will now put all my efforts into clearing my name and proving my innocence." The actor was initially arrested in connection with the offences in September, though Coronation Street producers have now taken the decision to axe Le Vell. A 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."
The initial investigation was dropped when authorities said there was not enough evidence to prosecute, though it's likely Greater Manchester Police has been building its case since. Alison Levitt, QC, principal legal adviser to the Director of Public Prosecutions, reviewed a new file of evidence and said in a statement, "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."