Bill Roache, the 81 year old actor better known to millions of TV viewers as Ken Barlowe was today (6th February 2014) found not guilty of the five remaining counts he faced.
Mr Roache stood trial on two allegations of rape and five of indecent assault. He was originally charged with two rapes of a 15 year old girl in 1967, before five charges were added of indecent assault against four different complainants aged between 11 and 16 between 1965 and 1968.
One of the allegations of indecent assault was dismissed at the end of the Prosecution case because “the witness was not giving evidence that it did happen, she was giving evidence that she was thinking it did happen“.
Mr Roache gave evidence and denied the offending, stating that he did not know any of the complainants, had never met them, and had never behaved inappropriately or illegal with anyone aged under 16.
For indecent assault, as the offences were committed on woman prior to 16 Sept 1985 the maximum sentence would have been five years if the girl was under 13, two years otherwise.
For rape the maximum sentence would have been life imprisonment.
What happens now?
The presumption of innocence means that Mr Roache is free to carry on with his life and is innocent of the charges that he faced.
We say that as there have already been people on twitter (some of whom seem to be journalists and should know better) saying that Mr Roache “got away with” something which is potentially libellous.
In the same vein, the fact that there was an acquittal does not equate to the jury stating as a fact that the complainants were liars. That was a question they were not asked, and by their verdict they have not answered.
For this reason, there is no suggestion that the complainants will be investigated by the police (let alone prosecuted) for the evidence that they gave, or wasting police time, or anything of that nature.
Mr Roache will have paid a substantial amount of money (probably six figures) towards his defence. Despite being found not guilty, he won’t be able to get this money back.
Should he have been prosecuted?
There is a debate to be had about whether someone can have a fair trial of allegations dating back 40 years so as in this case (and if so then how best to achieve one). This case will no doubt add to the discussion.