Claire Black: William Roache | Sochi Olympics

THERE are “no winners”. That’s probably the only point on which William Roache and I are ever going to agree.

William Roache was cleared earlier this week. Picture: Reuters
William Roache was cleared earlier this week. Picture: Reuters
William Roache was cleared earlier this week. Picture: Reuters

We definitely don’t see eye to eye on his belief (for which he subsequently apologised) that victims of abuse have somehow brought that abuse upon themselves through their actions in “previous lives”. I only mention this ludicrous comment because it – made during an interview on New Zealand television – was what provoked the five women who claimed they had been sexually assaulted by Roache to report their allegations to the police.

Let’s be clear: Roache was found not guilty of two counts of rape and four counts of indecent assault and walked away from Preston Crown Court a free man. The relief of both Roache and his family was understandable. What was less palatable was the gasping admiration of Roache’s friend Christine Hamilton, who took to the airwaves to share her relief, and the news that Michael Le Vell – Roache’s Coronation Street stablemate who was himself cleared on multiple sex charges last year – was “absolutely delighted” for his Corrie co-star.

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For my part, I feel a bit too mired in the depressing context surrounding this case to feel much of anything other than a kind of predictable despair as to the likely fall-out of yet another failed prosecution.

Every time a celebrity on a rape charge is acquitted, calls for the anonymity of defendants grow louder. Women must be stopped from wrecking the lives of innocent men, goes the argument. I’m certainly not going to argue in favour of false accusations, but it might be worth bearing in mind that research suggests such allegations of rape are extremely rare. More than this, only 10 per cent of rape cases reported in Scotland ever make it to court. As for successful convictions, they’re running at fewer than one third. We’re not exactly witnessing a surge in prosecutions for sexual violence.

But we are experiencing a surge of speaking out. Roache is just one of a string of “celebrities” recently accused of sexual offences. Stuart Hall is in prison. Others await verdicts, some are on bail, other trials have not yet begun. The outcome of these cases, of course, is a matter for the courts. But it’s grim stuff. Add to that last week’s UN report criticising the Catholic Church for its abominable failure to protect thousands of children from sexual abuse by priests, and the suppurating sore of allegations in the US media about Woody Allen’s alleged behaviour towards his children, specifically the repeated claims of Dylan Farrow that Allen sexually abused her as a child, and it seems that the only inescapable truth is that we still haven’t found a way of taking care of those who come forward – either protecting them in the first place or supporting them when they speak out.

As for the Roache case, the Crown Prosecution Service has been accused of going on a “celebrity witch-hunt”. According to Nazir Afzal, the chief prosecutor for North-West England, “nobody should be above the law” and celebrity cases should be dealt with like any other. Fair enough. But as Roache heads back to the cobbles of Coronation Street, one of the women who claimed she’d been abused said that she felt “let down” by the justice system. “That is why we didn’t come forward in the first place, because we didn’t think we would be believed,” she added. “We’ve been proved right, haven’t we?”

Why I’m boycotting Sochi

THE first arrests of gay activists took place in Russia on Friday. Four people were picked up by police for unfurling a gay rights banner in St Petersburg. And with that I decided that, despite my love of ice-skating (a camper sport it’s hard to imagine), I won’t be watching the action from Sochi this year. It’s my own little boycott. And although you might think it’s a bit lame, a bit earnest, a bit pointless even, I’ve decided that for me it’s the right thing to do. I don’t struggle to understand why athletes who have trained for years have decided to participate in the Games – I don’t even mind that Clare Balding has decided to commentate. I get it. I just hope that as many people as possible who attend the Games manage to show some solidarity with the beleaguered Russian LGBT community and it’d be great too if they can show their disapproval of the Russian state’s heinous homophobia. What will I be doing with my free time since I won’t be watching the luge? I’ll be practising my Russian, phonetically of course. How about: “Gdjye ya magoo koopit radoozhne flag?” It means, “Where can I get a rainbow flag?”

Lego of old stereotypes

CHARLOTTE Benjamin, thank you for your brilliant letter to Lego, or as you called it “Lego company”. Thanks for pointing out that “there are more Lego boy people and barely any Lego girls” and that whereas Lego girls “sit at home, go to the beach, and shop”, Lego boys “went on adventures, worked, saved people, and… even swam with sharks”. Thanks also for demanding (very politely) that Lego “make more Lego girl people and let them go on adventures and fun ok!?!” Charlotte is seven. If she can get her head around why gender stereotyping kids’ toys is a problem, how come corporations and their ad agencies can’t?