14 Jan 2014

‘You’re trying William Roache, not Ken Barlow’ – judge

A judge tells jurors that they have to distinguish between Coronation Street actor William Roache, who is on trial accused of sex offences, and his fictional character Ken Barlow.

Mr Justice Holroyde QC said they should not confuse the “real person” and the part he has played on the ITV soap opera for more than half a century.

The 81-year-old is accused of two counts of raping a 15-year-old girl in east Lancashire in 1967 and five indecent assaults involving four other girls aged between 11 or 12 and 16, allegedly committed in the Manchester area between 1965 and 1971.

He arrived at Preston crown court with his sons Linus and James, who sat with him on the front row of seats in the public gallery.

Mr Roache formally surrendered to bail and entered the dock as the hearing started.

Before the trial began, a panel of potential jurors was brought into court and given a warning before selection.

‘Real person’ on trial

Mr Justice Holroyde said: “You may feel in one sense you know the defendant, Mr Roache. He is well known as an actor who for many years has played the part of Ken Barlow in Coronation Street.

“But of course this is not the fictional character of Ken Barlow in court. It is a real person, William Roache, who is on trial.

“You must separate the fictional character from the real person, you will have to decide verdicts from the evidence you will hear from a real person, about a real person.

“So you must put out of your mind any views you might or might not have, favourable or unfavourable, of the fictional character Ken Barlow.

“However, if for any reason any of you feel that you will find it impossible to make a fair and independent judgment on the evidence, uninfluenced by your views about the TV character, then you must say so.”

The trial is expected to last for up to four weeks. Mr Roache denies all charges.

William Roaches's alleged victims

One alleged victim was encouraged to contact the police by her son. She did so and Mr Roache was arrested in May 2013 and charged with rape.The publicity that followed led to the other complainants coming forward, the court heard.

Mr Roache is alleged to have raped a 15-year-old on two occasions at a house in Lancashire in 1967.

A 63-year-old woman claims Mr Roache indecently assaullted her in a toilet at Granada TV studios in Manchester when she was 14. The court heard he then sent her a letter and signed photograph. Mr Roache is alleged to have indecently assaulted another woman in a toilet.

A woman, now in her late 50s, was allegedly indecently assaulted at Granada studios. Her younger sister was allegedly made to commit a sex act on Mr Roache in his Rolls-Royce car. Afterwards, he gave her half a crown (12.5p) and told her to get the bus home, the jury was told

Anne White QC, opening the case for the prosecution, said that when Mr Roache was arrested he said he was “absolutely surprised and amazed” and also appeared visibly shocked. When confronted with the rape allegations he denied them.

The prosecutor said: “He told the police that he did not recognise her name or recall her in any way. He denied that he would ever do anything like that, referring to himself as a peaceful and gentle person.

“He categorically denied raping (the alleged victim) and ascribed her allegation to the modern climate of accusing celebrities.”

In June 2013, he was re-arrested in the wake of the further allegations of indecent assault, the jury heard. Miss Whyte said: “Before the interview he provided the police with a prepared statement.

“He denied the allegations and again asserted they did not reflect his nature which was sensitive and caring. He explained over the years women had expressed sexual interest in him and that he had taken the opportunity to sleep with many women but that this had always been with their consent and that he had never sought out girls under the age of 16 because such young girls did not interest him sexually.”