ALLEGED serial sex attacker Joseph McCann, said to have struck in East Lancashire, has refused to attend his plea hearing at The Old Bailey.

The 34-year-old is accused of the false imprisonment of a woman in Haslingden, and alleged sexual offences, including rape, against a 17-year-old girl and 11-year-old boy.

McCann, originally from Aylesbury, is also facing charges relating to victims in London, Cheshire and Greater Manchester.

But he did not appear on a video link screen and a dock officer confirmed he had refused to leave his cell.

Mr Justice Edis said that, unlike in the magistrates' court, the defendant's presence was not required for the hearing to go ahead.

He indicated that McCann should be informed that, if he chose not to attend his trial, it would happen in his absence.

The senior judge set a provisional six-week trial at the Old Bailey, to start on November 11 and a plea hearing on July 26.

Even though he was not present, McCann was represented in court by a defence lawyer.

McCann is charged with 21 offences in total against eight alleged victims, aged between 11 and 71, across five police force areas over a two-week period between April 21 and May 5.

He is charged with eight offences of rape, four of kidnap, two of false imprisonment, two of engaging in non-penetrative sexual activity, two of sexual assault by penetration, one of inciting a boy under the age of 13 to engage in sexual activity, one of engaging in non-penetrative sexual activity with a girl aged 13 to 15, and one assault offence.