Jury retires in Roache sex trial
The jury in the rape and indecent assault trial of Coronation Street star William Roache has retired to consider its verdicts.
Roache, 81, who plays Ken Barlow in the ITV soap, is accused of using his fame and popularity to exploit five youngsters between the mid-60s and early 70s.
His trial at Preston Crown Court, now in its fourth week, has heard from five women who claim he sexually assaulted them when they were 16 or under, either at Granada Studios in Manchester, in his car or at properties he owned.
In denying all the offences, Roache said he did not even know any of his accusers and had never had a sexual interest in under-age girls.
The prosecution says the actor was "sticking to his script" in lying and if he was telling the truth, he was the victim of a "huge, distorted and perverse witch-hunt" .
Anne Whyte QC depicted Roache as a young man with "looks, fame and appetite" at the relevant time, which gave him the "motivation and the opportunity to behave improperly''.
She said his fame "put him out of reach" with his belief that none of the women would be brave enough to report him.
"Decades of silence" followed but times had changed now, she told the jury of eight women and four men.
Apart from two of the complainants who were sisters, there was no evidence to suggest any of the women who had come forward with similar allegations had known each other.
Louise Blackwell QC, defending, said the case against her client was "nonsense", with the trial haunted by the "spectre" of Jimmy Savile.
She went through each of the accounts of the complainants to point out "contradictions and inconsistencies".
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.
Miss Blackwell said it was "nonsense" to assert that Roache departed from his usual character and behaviour to become a sexual "risk-taker" between the mid-60s and early 70s.
The barrister suggested to the jury that fair investigations did not take place into allegations of such nature against a celebrity in the "post-Savile crisis of conscience".
Roache, from Wilmslow, Cheshire, is accused of two counts of rape and four counts of indecent assault on various dates between 1965 and 1972.
He is said to have raped one of the complainants at his then bungalow in Lancashire when she was a virgin and raped her again in an adjoining cottage he owned.
Three of the indecent assaults were said to have taken place inside Granada Studios - in the gents toilets, the ladies toilets and a dressing room - while the fourth is alleged to have happened in his Rolls-Royce when he was said to have given a lift home to a complainant.
Before the jurors retired, trial judge Mr Justice Holroyde reminded them of the prosecution's central claims, made by Anne Whyte QC in her closing speech.
"The reality in the case is that either Mr Roache is lying or the complainants are," he said.
"It's not just that Mr Roache denies that the acts alleged against him ever occurred, he denies they ever could have occurred, because, for example, he says 'There never was any young female in my house or dressing room or in my car'.
"And so, says Miss Whyte, Mr Roache's case is that the complainants have not only made up the allegations, but also made up all the surrounding circumstances they describe."
The judge reminded the jury of the question posed by Miss Whyte - who has most to gain from lying? - and the prosecutor's answer: "Obviously, the well-loved star of a very popular soap opera."
He also reminded the jury of the words of Louise Blackwell QC, defending Roache.
The defence case says it is not enough to simply regard the bare allegations the complainants make - the jury must look closely at the "inconsistencies and errors" in the evidence.
The judge pointed to a central argument in the defence case: Roache's glowing character testimonies from fellow co-stars on Coronation Street.
Mr Justice Holroyde said the defence argued it "simply cannot be right" that the defendant committed the offences, then stopped and not only did nothing wrong for 40 years but also "attracted the sort of character evidence you heard from witnesses".
In weighing the arguments up, the judge again warned the jury to put emotion aside.
He said: "I will make it plain to you, as I have throughout, you are going to have to weigh up the witnesses and decide which evidence is truthful and reliable and which is not.
"You will remember quite early on in my directions how I warned you that you must set your emotions to one side.
"You must approach all this with a clear head and make a dispassionate assessment of the evidence you have heard."
The jury was sent home and will return to resume its deliberations at 10am tomorrow (Thursday).