Coronation Street actor Bill Roache has been charged with two counts of the rape of a 15-year-old girl in 1967, Lancashire Police have said.
The 81-year-old, who has played Ken Barlow in the ITV soap since its launch, was arrested at his home in Wilmslow, Cheshire, on Wednesday.
Lancashire Police said the actor was charged following consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). A statement from Lancashire Police said: “The offences are alleged to have been committed in Haslingden between April and July 1967 and to involve a girl aged 15 years.”
Nazir Afzal, Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS North West, said: “We have carefully considered all the evidence gathered by Lancashire Police in relation to William Roache following allegations of rape. We have been reviewing evidence and providing early investigative advice to Lancashire Police since 1 March 2013.
“Having completed our review, we have concluded that there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest for Mr Roache to be charged with two offences of rape relating to a girl, aged 15, in 1967.”
Roache will appear at Preston Magistrates’ Court on May 14.
Roache – the world’s longest-serving soap actor – will not appear in the show while investigations continue. An ITV spokesman said on Wednesday night: “Bill Roache will not be appearing in Coronation Street until legal proceedings are concluded.”
Roache, wearing a dark pullover, checked shirt and jacket, returned to his home on Wednesday night, around 14 hours after his initial arrest, in a car driven by his solicitor.
Roache made no comment, but as his solicitor left in the car he said: “Mr Roache will make a statement in the morning.”
Roache collected an award from Guinness World Records in 2010 for his long service in Coronation Street, having joined in 1960 and appearing regularly ever since.
Mr Afzal said: “This decision was taken in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors and our guidance for prosecutors on sexual offences. Mr Roache has a right to a fair trial and it is therefore very important that nothing is said, or reported, which could prejudice that trial. For these reasons, it would be inappropriate for me to comment further.”
It comes a little over a month after Roache appeared to suggest that sex abuse victims were being punished for sins in a past life. He issued an apology over the comments in March.