A SERVING police officer has appeared in court charged with raping a woman and assault causing actual bodily harm.

Ernesto Ceraldi, 43, who gave an address in Darwen, is alleged to have committed the offences after meeting the alleged victim, who is in her 40s, in a pub in Edenfield on Friday.

Ceraldi, a specialised firearms officer and dog handler with Greater Manchester Police, appeared before District Judge Jack McGarva at Blackburn Magistrates' Court earlier today for the brief hearing.

District Judge McGarva sent the case to Burnley Crown Court, where Ceraldi will be required to appear on May 4.

The judge granted bail on condition he lived at the Greater Manchester Police training centre at Sedgley Park, near Prestwich, observed a curfew between 8pm and 8am, did not contact prosecution witnesses, did not enter Ramsbottom and surrendered his passport.

The prosecutor, Peter Beardsley, immediately lodged an appeal against the decision to grant bail.

Ceraldi will remain in custody until the appeal is heard by a judge sitting at the Crown Court.