Coronation Street actor Michael Le Vell will stand trial in September after being accused of child sex offences.
The star, who plays car mechanic Kevin Webster in the ITV soap, made his first appearance at Manchester Crown Court today under his real name of Michael Turner.
The 48-year-old is charged with 19 offences including six counts of raping a child, six allegations of indecently assaulting a child and seven counts of sexual activity with a child.
The alleged offences relate to one complainant and all took place between 2001 and 2010.
During today’s preliminary hearing, which lasted about 10 minutes, Le Vell, wearing a dark pinstripe suit, white shirt and black tie, spoke only to confirm his name.
Six members of his family sat in the public gallery of the packed courtroom.
Le Vell has not yet entered a plea but has stated publicly that he is innocent and will fight the allegations through the courts.
Prosecutor Eleanor Laws told Judge Michael Henshell that a plea hearing will take place on May 17 followed by a two to three-week trial starting on September 2.
Alisdair Williamson, defending, asked for an earlier trial date, saying: “Mr Turner has had this hanging over his head for 18 months.”
But Judge Henshell said the September date should be fixed and granted the actor bail until the plea hearing, at the same court, in May.
Asked by the judge if he understood, Le Vell nodded and said “Thank you”, before leaving the dock.
As he left court and walked to his car, the star smiled at the large group of photographers and camera crews and joked: ``It's an early finish for you lot, innit?''
He made no other comments.
Le Vell was bailed on condition that he surrenders his passport, does not contact named witnesses and does not have unsupervised contact with any child under the age of 14.
Mr Williamson said there may be a defence application for the return of his passport and the judge ruled that if there was, it should be dealt with administratively.
Le Vell was arrested in September 2011 and questioned over alleged child sex offences, but the matter was later dropped.
In January, the Crown Prosecution Service said it was in the public interest to charge him with the current offences following a review of evidence.
The father of two, originally from Manchester, is one of TV’s most famous faces after playing garage owner and mechanic Webster for the past 30 years.
He began his showbusiness career in the Oldham Theatre Workshop after taking an interest in amateur dramatics while at school.
Le Vell first joined Coronation Street in 1983 and quickly endeared himself to fans, who have followed the trials and tribulations of Kevin, from Brian Tilsley’s apprentice mechanic through to his stormy marriage to Sally, played by Sally Dynevor, and fathering two girls, Rosie and Sophie, as well as a son, Jack, from his affair with Molly Dobbs.
The actor split from his wife, Janette Beverley, last year.
ITV has said he will not be appearing in any further episodes of the soap pending the outcome of legal proceedings.
In a statement following his arrest, Le Vell, from Altrincham, Greater Manchester, said he was innocent of the charges and intended to “fight them vigorously”.