Coronation Street's William Roache on trial not Ken Barlow, jury told

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Media captionMr Roache was surrounded by photographers as he entered and left the court, as Olivia Richwald reports

A judge has told a panel of potential jurors that the "real person" William Roache is on trial, not his fictional Coronation Street character.

Mr Justice Tim Holroyde QC said any views of Ken Barlow must be "put out of your mind" to ensure a "fair and independent judgement" can be reached.

Mr Roache, 81, from Wilmslow, Cheshire, denies two counts of raping a 15-year-old girl in East Lancashire in 1967.

At Preston Crown Court, he also denies five indecent assaults on four girls.

Image copyright Court artist Helen Tipper
Image caption William Roache's trial is set to last up to four weeks

Those alleged offences relate to girls aged 16 or under in Manchester in the mid to late 1960s.

Mr Justice Holroyde said: "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," he added.

'Think again'

"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 judgement on the evidence, uninfluenced by your views about the TV character, then you must say so."

Opening the prosecution, Anne Whyte QC told the jury: "If you have an instinct to think that the older an allegation is, the less serious it is, think again."

She said the first of the women complainants, now aged 62, contacted police in March 2013 after talking to her son.

The veteran soap star was arrested at his home in May and charged with two counts of rape.

After news of his arrest broke it led to other women coming forward, the court heard.

Jury selected

The court heard Coronation Street actors Anne Kirkbride, Chris Gascoyne and Helen Worth are among the defence witnesses who will be called during the trial.

The trio play the characters Deirdre Barlow, Peter Barlow and Gail McIntyre.

Following Mr Justice Holroyde's remarks, a panel of eight women and four men were selected and sworn into court.

Mr Roache arrived at the court with his sons Linus and James, and a security guard. The actor's children sat in the public gallery.

The actor, who has not appeared in the programme while legal proceedings were ongoing, "strenuously" denies the allegations.

The trial is scheduled to last up to four weeks.

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