UK & World News
Le Vell Trial: 'Right Decision' To Prosecute
The decision to pursue the prosecution of actor Michael Le Vell on child sex abuse charges was the "right" one, says the country's top prosecutor.
It comes as the debate about whether to give anonymity to those accused of sex crimes continues to rage.
Mr Le Vell, who plays Kevin Webster in the ITV soap Coronation Street, was cleared of all 12 charges against him by a jury at Manchester Crown Court on Tuesday.
Keir Starmer QC, outgoing director of public prosecutions, told MPs on the Home Affairs Select Committee: "A proper assessment was taken in the case and the decision to proceed was the right decision.
"There was a case to answer. That case was answered and the jury took some time to consider their verdict.
"It's not a case on which there was no evidence, had it been it would have been stopped half way after testing of the evidence.
"It's important we reaffirm that - that if a case results in an acquittal it shouldn't have been brought is wrong."
Mr Le Vell, 48, mouthed the words "thank you" to the jury of eight women and four men who dismissed a string of allegations made by his accuser, who claimed she had been raped and abused while a young girl.
Mr Le Vell's aunt and several former Coronation Street colleagues claimed he had been taken to court just because of his star status.
But another of Britain's top prosecutors denied the defendant was subjected to a celebrity "witch-hunt".
Nazir Afzal, the Crown Prosecution Service lead on child sexual exploitation, insisted "nobody should be above the law" and said he would not shy away from high-profile cases.
He said it "does not matter" if, when looking at the evidence, "it takes us to someone who might have drawn attention to themselves publicly in some way, shape or form".
Defence lawyer Nick Freeman told Sky News that Mr Le Vell's acquittal "urgently highlights" the need for anonymity for those accused of sexual offences until they are convicted.
"These heinous allegations carry a terrible social stigma and a revulsion that transcends most other criminal offences," he said.
"These don't die with an acquittal - they stay with a person for the rest of their life."
However, Mark Williams-Thomas, a child protection expert, argued that under the current system victims feel "more confident" in coming forward and speaking to the police.
"We need to look at the detrimental effect not naming individuals could have," he said.
"We know that as a result of the (Jimmy) Savile investigations, people came forward and made allegations.
"Stuart Hall was then prosecuted, having initially vehemently denied the allegations ... and is now in jail."
Mr Le Vell's legal team argued it was a "strange case of child rape" without any DNA evidence or injuries to the alleged victim, who claimed she had been raped and abused when she was younger.
Jurors were told to decide whether the girl was telling the truth or had set out to "quite literally destroy" the actor's life.
Mr Vell is now in talks with ITV about a return to Coronation Street.