FAME allowed Coronation Street star William Roache to carry out sex attacks on young girls and silence his victims for decades, a court has heard.

Mr Roache, as an actor playing Ken Barlow in the ITV soap, had the opportunity to prey on his victims and his stardom was one reason none of his young victims spoke of the abuse, it was alleged.

Mr Roache, 81, denies five counts of indecent assault and two counts of rape involving five girls aged between 11 or 12 and 16. The offences are said to have occurred between 1965 and 1971.

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Anne Whyte QC, opening the prosecution's case at Preston Crown Court, told the jury of eight women and four men they were "bound to know" the defendant is a household name.

She said: "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.

"But just as you must not judge or dismiss the complaints because they took so long to complain, so you must not favour or condemn the defendant simply because you have heard of him or because he is over 80.

"Favour or condemn him on the evidence, not because he plays Ken Barlow."

Mr Roache denies seven separate criminal charges involving five different women.

The prosecutor said the first complainant in the case contacted the police last March.

Mr Roache was arrested on May 1 and, after being interviewed, he was charged with two offences of rape. The publicity that followed led to the other complainants coming forward.

Miss Whyte said the Crown argues that this should be a "powerful factor" in the jury's assessment of the evidence.

Women who do not know each other are complaining about his behaviour from the same broad period of time, she said.

The trial continues.