Sunday 28 December 2014

'Corrie' star Roache the latest victim of a public perv walk

Published 07/02/2014 | 02:30

William Roache leaves court behind two police officers after after being cleared of all charges at Preston Crown Court in Preston, northern England
William Roache leaves court behind two police officers after after being cleared of all charges at Preston Crown Court in Preston, northern England
Walk to freedom: Bill Roache with children James and Verity

Well, that wasn't in the script, was it? After all, everybody who has spent the last four weeks of the trial listening to ever more lurid claims and accusations of vile sexual exploitation of young women in relation to fusty old Ken Barlow from Corrie thought he was bang to rights. Or maybe you didn't pay much attention.

After all, Bill Roache is hardly the first celebrity to be accused of vile crimes in recent times in Britain. In fact, in a post-Savile climate we have seen an endless array of ageing men who enjoyed differing levels of fame finally being held to account for their crimes.

You only need to look at the sickening charges laid against these once powerful men to see it's time for a long overdue reckoning.

Except the inconvenient truth is that Roache has been found not guilty on all charges. Just guilty of being famous and, frankly, a bit odd.

Ever since the actor first sued The Sun in 1990 over claims that he was as boring as his on-screen persona, details of his private life have been regularly fodder for fun – the talk of a thousand lovers, his flirtation with Druidism, his links to the 'Circle of Love' movement and, most nauseatingly, his Hoddle-esque suggestion that the victims of abuse are paying for actions in a previous life have all combined to paint a picture of someone who was, to put it politely, eccentric and who holds some pretty unpleasant views.

And in the court of public opinion, being eccentric and holding unpleasant views is damning in itself. Official Britain is now so concerned with atoning for its complicity in these crimes that not only are people being hauled in over allegations, which is only right and fair, but their names are immediately released to the press, which is not.

All roads lead back to Savile, a man who fits the profile of a sexual predator so obviously that now it seems unfathomable that he could get away with it.

But it seemed unfathomable even then and Roache's trial has been filled with defence claims that the prosecution has gone on a wild, retrospective witch hunt and Roache is just the latest victim of a vengeful culture that is seeking vengeance in the wrong places – Jim Davidson will know how that feels.

Lest it be forgotten, doubts were cast over the credibility of one of the accusers when it emerged that her husband contacted the press before going to the police.

Meanwhile, the prosecution offered no evidence in one of the charges for sexual assault because the complainant admitted to having "no actual memory of the episode".

Forget about the rights and wrongs of prosecuting a crime nobody can actually remember, how can you possibly defend yourself, in full public glare, against a charge with no details?

Torquemada might like those odds, but it shouldn't be happening today.

This post-Savile prosecutorial feeding frenzy has seen a strange inversion of natural justice, where one of the most frequently used reasons for exposing well-known faces is that it will "help" other people to come forward, that it will jog their memory somehow.

As an automatic presumption of guilt, that takes some beating and is very different to the Stuart Hall case, which is often cited as a justification for this form of public perv walk.

Hall was finally brought to justice when the victim saw the publicity surrounding the Savile investigation and discovered she could finally talk to someone, not because she learned the identity of her abuser.

In this case, we are already dealing with high-profile figures who are beamed into our living rooms every other night, so the argument that their image may help put a face to a crime is bogus. Because applying that logic, once you publicise the identity of an innocent man in the hope of sparking fresh complaints, you may as well put everyone in a giant line-up in the hope that somebody, somewhere will remember something.

Roache didn't skip bail and leave town and force authorities to release a 'Wanted' poster. Instead, his good name was sacrificed on the altar of expedient pandering to the public mood for justice.

Nobody walks away from such accusations unscathed, and Roache was dignified in his brief comments to the media when he thanked everyone involved and encouraged people to be "kinder to themselves".

But this has now become the millstone destined to forever hang around his neck – he's just a piece of collateral damage in Official Britain's desire to be seen to be doing something, anything.

The problem with being seen to do something, anything, is that you freely accept that innocent lives will be destroyed in this process of being seen to be doing something, anything.

And that's a philosophy which holds that it is better that nine innocent men be ruined than one guilty man go free.

Meanwhile, as the old joke goes, Jimmy Savile is still dead.

Irish Independent

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