THE Crown Prosecution Service has defended its decision to charge Coronation Street star Bill Roache with sex offences after he was cleared of all charges amid claims of a witch-hunt against celebrities in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal.
A leading charity representing victims also said “it would be a shame” if women felt less able to report allegations as a result of a backlash following the Roache case.
During the trial, Louise Blackwell QC, defending Roche, told the jury – which yesterday cleared the soap star of two counts of rape and four counts of indecent assault – the case was haunted by the “spectre” of Savile.
It was suggested 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.
“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.
But Nazir Afzal, CPS North West chief crown prosecutor, insisted: “We have a duty to those who make complaints of serious offences to listen to the allegations, and assess the evidence against the same evidential standards we use for all criminal cases, no matter who makes the complaint, or who the complaint is against.”
Katie Russell from charity Rape Crisis and a trustee of Support After Rape & Sexual Violence Leeds, called for a calm response.
She said: “It would be a shame if high profile cases like this had a reverse impact (from Savile) when there was a period it felt so positive – survivors were being heard and believed.
“It’s the responsibility of the criminal justice system to build on steps already taken by the police and CPS. Efforts need to be kept up to build confidence victims will be treated appropriately.”