Coronation Street star William Roache used his TV role to “manipulate the trust and attention of star-struck teenagers”, a court has been told.
Ilkeston-born Roache, 81, who plays Ken Barlow, denies seven separate charges of indecent assault and rape dating back to the 1960s.
Opening the case at Preston Crown Court, Anne Whyte, prosecuting, told the jury: “William Roache is an actor. He has spent much of his adult life playing a part.
“You are here to judge the man, not the part. Mr Roache plays a fictional image of himself for a living - it is a skill which is central to his work and fame. But in this room, with you, with us, he is William Roache, not Ken Barlow. He is the defendant and you are the jury.”
During the trial, scheduled to last four weeks, members of Roache’s on-screen family are expected to defend their colleague.
A witness list, put to the jury, includes names such as Anne Kirkbride, who plays on-screen wife Deirdre Barlow; Chris Gascoyne, who plays his son Peter Barlow; and Helen Worth, who plays Gail Platt.
Miss Whyte told the jury: “You may well conclude by the end of this trial that William Roache’s fame and popularity provided not only the opportunity for his offending but that it is one of the predominant reasons for his victims’ decades of silence.”
Roache is alleged to have committed “unceremonious sexual acts” against two teenage girls on separate occasions when they toured Granada Studios in Manchester.
He later sent a letter to one of the youngsters in what the prosecution described as “a deliberate act designed to impress a young schoolgirl and to secure her unquestioning loyalty as a fan for a sexual purpose.”
Other offences are alleged to have taken place in Roache’s home and Silver Cloud Rolls-Royce.
Explaining a delay in coming forward, one of Roache’s alleged victims said: “I don’t think I would have been believed because who in their right mind would do that to a child when they have stars on, you have got celebrities that they can mix with in the studios.”
Miss Whyte said; “That, we say, really sums it up. No doubt she will have thought that, so did William Roache. You are entitled to conclude once you have heard her evidence that he too thought that his victims would not be believed. Perhaps he still does.”
Throughout the hearing, Roache sat in the dock with his hands clasped in his knees, showing no reaction to the allegations being made against him.
THE TRIAL IS CONTINUING