Coronation Street actor William Roache on trial for rape

Tuesday 14 January 2014 22.00
William Roache arrives at Preston Crown Court this morning
William Roache arrives at Preston Crown Court this morning

Fame allowed Coronation Street actor William Roache to carry out sex attacks on young girls and silence his victims for decades, a court has heard.

Mr Roache, as an actor playing Ken Barlow in the ITV soap, had the opportunity to prey on his victims and his stardom was one reason none of his young victims spoke of the abuse, it was alleged.

The 81-year-old denies five counts of indecent assault and two counts of rape involving five girls aged between 11 or 12 and 16.

The offences are said to have occurred between 1965 and 1971.

He sat in the dock listening intently as his trial began at Preston Crown Court.

The actor was arrested at his home in Wilmslow, Cheshire, England last May.

When charged with rape, Mr Roache issued a statement in which he said he was "astounded and deeply horrified" by the accusations.

He said: "I strenuously deny the allegations and will now focus my full attention on fighting to preserve my innocence in the challenging times ahead.

"I would like to offer my sincere thanks to all those people who have offered me their support and good wishes at this difficult time."

Mr Roache later formally pleaded not guilty to the seven counts he faces.

Anne Whyte QC, opening the case for the prosecution, told the jury of eight women and four men they were "bound to know" the defendant is a household name.

"It would be artificial to suggest that this fact should be divorced from this case because it cannot be," she said.

"You may well conclude by the end of this trial that William Roache's fame and popularity provided not only the opportunity for his offending but that it is one of the predominant reasons for his victims' decades of silence.

"But just as you must not judge or dismiss the complaints because they took so long to complain, so you must not favour or condemn the defendant simply because you have heard of him or because he is over 80.

"Favour or condemn him on the evidence, not because he plays Ken Barlow.

"Do not be diverted from the integrity of your task and oath just because he is William Roache."

The actor was arrested at his home in Wilmslow, Cheshire, England last May.

When charged with rape, Mr Roache issued a statement in which he said he was "astounded and deeply horrified" by the accusations.

The world's longest-serving soap actor has not appeared in the programme while the legal proceedings are ongoing.

He has been on bail since his arrest with various conditions, including residence, no direct unsupervised contact with anyone under 16 and not to approach named witnesses.

The trial at Preston Crown Court is scheduled to last up to four weeks.