On balance, the police and CPS were right to prosecute Bill Roache. Fellow Coronation Street actors said after he was unanimously cleared yesterday that the trial was “a waste of public money”. I disagree. It would be far more dangerous for police forces to meet historical allegations with a blanket dismissal – as too difficult to prosecute.
Trial must be an appalling experience for an innocent person: the irreparable damage to reputation, home raided, life put on hold, the physical and mental strain, the harm to family and friends. I know someone who went through the horror of a false allegation. The accuser turned out to be a serial liar. But it was right that the claim still had to be investigated, despite the personal cost.
In the shadow of Savile, some false allegations against public figures will almost certainly have been made. Other claims are impossible to prove given the passage of time. Lancashire Constabulary said after yesterday’s verdicts that it had believed there was “sufficient evidence to justify a realistic prospect of conviction”. The jurors rejected that. The defence found inconsistencies in the testimony of the five accusers.
“What about the women who made the accusations?” emailed i reader Malcolm Clark yesterday. “Is their ability to accuse whilst preserving their anonymity correct?”
Yes, it is, I’d argue. There are unique difficulties to bringing rape prosecutions – and the victims should not have to jump through any more hurdles than is currently the case. As i revealed this week, the CPS is investigating whether thousands of suspected rape cases have been wrongly discontinued, despite an increase in the number of attacks reported to police.
Mr Roache is an innocent man. Many other men who are guilty escape justice.