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Grooming victim fear over Coronation Street courtroom error

Nazir Afzal
Image caption Former chief crown prosecutor Nazir Afzal said up to now the programme was "to be applauded"

Child sexual exploitation victims may fear coming forward after a courtroom sketch of a grooming victim was shown in Coronation Street, it is feared.

The character Bethany Platt, 16, is at the centre of a grooming storyline. The soap showed a sketch of her being drawn during the trial of her alleged abuser.

By law, sexual assault victims are granted anonymity for life.

Former chief crown prosecutor Nazir Afzal said he was "concerned". ITV apologised for the mistake.

In the long-running story Nathan Curtis, played by Chris Harper, was arrested for sexual exploitation and accused of forcing the teenager to have sex with his friends in a series of "parties".

'Before watershed'

Mr Afzal said up to now the programme had been "a very accurate reflection of a victim's experience".

Image copyright ITV
Image caption The story of Bethany being groomed by Nathan has gripped viewers

He said: "I think it was especially brave before the watershed and it has undoubtedly encouraged victims to come forward.

"But I'm concerned over their mistake. A court artist must always draw from memory and must not draw victims.

"We make an enormous play of telling victims that nobody will know who you are.

"Those victims might pick up the mistake and it might make them uncomfortable and we shouldn't have to do that.

"We're having to put the genie back in the bottle; we're having to fix something, which should be unnecessary."

A spokesman for ITV said the artist was "solely used to illustrate the passing of time".

He said: "We accept this wasn't a true representation of court procedure and we apologise for including it.

"We repeatedly focused on support for victims throughout the court process, which we hope would encourage anyone watching to recognise the fact they would be in a safe place when giving evidence."

In June, five complaints were made to broadcast regulator Ofcom after child grooming scenes involving Bethany Platt were shown before the watershed.

The long-running Coronation Street storyline showed three men paying for sex then following the teenager, played by Lucy Fallon, into a bedroom.

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