Actor free as sex charges rejected
Former Coronation Street actor Andrew Lancel has left court a free man and hand in hand with his wife after being cleared of child sex charges.
The 42-year-old, who played Frank Foster in the popular soap, was found not guilty of four counts of indecently assaulting a 15-year-old boy, dating back to 1994.
Lancel, who also had parts in Casualty and Heartbeat, denied any sexual activity took place and the claims were said by his barrister Andrew Menary QC to be "malicious lies".
Father-of-one Lancel was cleared by the jury, which was out for just 29 minutes, following a week-long trial. Lancel bit his lip and looked to the ceiling as his wife Louise burst into tears in the public gallery when the unanimous not guilty verdicts were delivered at Liverpool Crown Court.
Judge Clement Goldstone, the Recorder of Liverpool, thanked the jurors who left the courtroom before the defendant left the dock.
The judge, speaking to Mr Menary, said: "The defendant was acquitted on the evidence and rightly so, but it is important that the complainant, who is clearly scarred by an experience, should understand that the jury verdict does not necessarily involve rejection of his account of a sexual encounter or encounters with the defendant.
"It is a statement that the prosecution have failed to make the jury sure that abuse of the type alleged occurred during the period covered by the indictment and in particular before the complainant's 16th birthday, now more than 18 years ago."
Minutes later Lancel walked out of court into blazing sunshine, smiling and holding the hand of his wife. He posed for photographers crowded around him but declined to comment on the case.
Lancel's solicitor Stuart Nolan read a short statement on behalf of the actor outside court. It read: "Andrew would like to thank his family and friends and all parties for their support and prayers. He just wants to spend time with his family."
The actor, from Gateacre in Liverpool, was charged in November under his real name Andrew Watkinson. It was claimed that abuse started when the actor visited a theatre group in his home town of Southport, Merseyside. But under cross-examination the claims by Lancel's alleged victim, now aged 34, were branded fiction by the defendant's lawyer.