Celebrity lawyer Nick Freeman has once again called for defendant anonymity in sex cases, following the acquittal of Coronation Street star Bill Roache.
The veteran actor, 81, who has appeared as Ken Barlow in the TV soap since the first episode, was found not guilty of two counts of rape and four counts of indecent assault, following a four week trial at Preston Crown Court.
Speaking after the hearing, Mr Freeman said: “Once again an innocent man has had salacious allegations paraded in pubic, his reputation is tarnished, and his whole career virtually destroyed, whilst his accusers luxuriate behind a veil of anonymity.
“The law must be changed so that people who are charged with these sorts of allegations, irrespective of their status, are afforded the same degree of protection as their accusers, until such time as they are convicted. There must be a level playing field!”
With the recent rise in the number of “celebrities” accused of sex allegations, Mr Freeman – whose clients include David Beckham and Sir Alex Ferguson – warned that public profiles work against defendants in court, and in reality there is an added responsibility that now burdens celebrity status.
He added: “With the rise of social media and 24-hour rolling news, ‘innocent until proven guilty’ has disseminated into a public witch hunt, in which jury’s cannot escape.
“It was only a few weeks ago that four police forces were naming and shaming people accused of drink driving on Twitter, when charged as opposed to when convicted.
“According to Matthew Ellis, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Staffordshire, there is a presumption of guilt as opposed to a presumption of innocence.
“The starting point should be anonymity for all people charged with such allegations. There is a specific stigma associated with sexual allegations that never leave the accused, even when acquitted.
“The prosecution should always be at liberty to make applications to reveal the identity of the accused if it is in the public interest – for example if they suspect they are dealing with a serial offender.”
For Further Information, please contact:
Nick Freeman, Freeman & Co, on 0161 236 7007
David Simister, Different PR, on 0845 389 26 26 / 07870 550 760