independent

Thursday 17 April 2014

'There are no winners in this situation - we should be kinder to each other' - Bill Roache after jury acquits him of sex abuse charges

Coronation Street star Bill Roache has urged people to be "kinder to themselves" after found him not guilty of sexually abusing five teenagers.

Speaking to the assembled press corps after leaving court, Roache said: "In these situations, there are no winners.

"We should be kinder to ourselves.

"Now if you excuse me, I'd like to get back to work," he said.

Roache also thanked his family - his sons and daughter accompanied him to court every - his legal team, his work colleagues and supporters.

Roache was found not guilty by a jury of two counts of rape and four counts of indecent assault following a four week trial at Preston Crown Court.

The 81-year-old actor, who plays Ken Barlow in the ITV soap, was said to have used his fame and popularity to exploit the "starstruck" girls, aged 16 and under, between the mid-60s and early 70s.

The women told jurors they were sexually abused by the defendant either at Granada Studios in Manchester, in his car or at properties he owned.

But Roache told the jury he had no knowledge of any of the women and the alleged abuse simply did not happen.

Roache said he was "astounded" and "horrified" at his arrest on suspicion of rape at his home in Wilmslow, Cheshire, on May 1 last year.

Coronation Street actor Bill Roache arrives at Preston Crown Court, where he denies two counts of raping a 15-year-old girl in east Lancashire in 1967, and four indecent assaults involving four girls aged between 11 or 12 and 16 in the Manchester area in 1965 and 1968. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday February 3, 2014. See PA story COURTS Roache. Photo credit should read: Peter Byrne/PA Wire
Coronation Street actor Bill Roache arrives at Preston Crown Court with his daughter Verity

ITV announced he would not appear in the programme until legal proceedings were concluded.

The widespread publicity of the arrest led to four other women coming forward to allege they too had been victims in the same era.

Roache was arrested again last June and then charged with five counts of indecent assault.

But the world's longest-serving soap actor - who has appeared in Coronation Street since its 1960 launch - told the jury sexual abuse was not in his "nature" and he had no interest in underage girls.

Louise Blackwell QC, defending, said the case against her client was "nonsense", with the trial haunted by the "spectre" of Jimmy Savile.

Criticism of police and prosecutors over Savile's impunity despite years of suspicions of sex abuse meant accusations against other celebrities had to end in a trial, it was suggested.

"In the post Jimmy Savile era, once someone makes an allegation, it's got to go to court, no sense will prevail, it has to go to court," Miss Blackwell said.

Glowing testimonies about Roache's "caring" and "lovely" nature were given in evidence by three of his Coronation Street co-stars including Anne Kirkbride, who plays his on-screen wife Deirdre.

It was not credible the jury were told that the "perfect gentleman" and "father figure" they described had been a "sexual predator".

And the "inconsistencies and contradictions" of each complainant's "story" was picked apart under cross-examination.

During the trial the prosecution offered no evidence on one of two counts of indecent assault, relating to one complainant, as she had "no actual memory of the episode".

The involvement of the press was also highlighted.

The husband of one complainant, whose sister was also allegedly abused, contacted the papers before the police - which "coloured" their allegations, Miss Blackwell said.

After Roache's initial arrest for rape was "all over the press" she asked the jury whether any of the other women who came forward later could be regarded as "truly independent."

Kim Pilling and Pat Hurst

Press Association

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