A former Coronation Street actor has been cleared of four counts of indecently assaulting a 15-year-old boy.
Andrew Lancel, 42, who played Frank Foster in Coronation Street, was cleared of four charges relating to the youngster dating back to 1994 when the teenager was attending a theatre group. The jury took just 29 minutes to clear the star of all counts.
Lancel bit his lip and looked to the ceiling as his wife Louise burst into tears in the public gallery when the verdict was delivered at Liverpool Crown Court.
The actor, from Gateacre in Liverpool, was charged last November under his real name Andrew Watkinson.
Judge Clement Goldstone QC, thanked the jury who left the courtroom before the defendant left the dock.
The judge, speaking to the defendant’s barrister, Andrew Menary QC, 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 verdicts 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.”
Lancel walked out of court into blazing sunshine, a free man, hand in hand with his wife Louise. He posed for a pack of 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 originally faced six counts of indecent assault, but Judge Goldstone earlier ordered the jury to find the defendant not guilty of two of the counts as the victim had agreed while he was being cross-examined that he could not definitely say that some of the allegations happened before his 15th birthday.
Lancel made 137 appearances in Coronation Street as Frank Foster and 273 in The Bill as Detective Inspector Neil Manson.