Hollyoaks is to ask a ‘jury’ of viewers to decide the outcome of a rape trial storyline involving characters Gilly Roach and Jacqui McQueen.
The Channel 4 soap wants to explore issues of consent in the run-up to and throughout a week-long trial to be shown next month.
In Tuesday night’s episode Gilly and Jacqui – played by Anthony Quinlan and Claire Cooper – were seen entering a bedroom together and the door closing behind them. Jacqui later claims that Gilly raped her.
Viewers will not see what happened between them prior to the trial, which considers whether consent was given, rather than whether the pair had intercourse.
An off-screen jury, made up of both fans of Hollyoaks as well as those not familiar with the characters, will be shown all the evidence in the case and, guided by a legal professional, asked to reach a verdict on it.
Their decision will then determine the outcome of the on-screen story, according to reports in The Guardian.
Online content will support the on-screen drama – including the jury process, which will not be screened on Channel 4.
“We wanted to open up the thorny issue of how hard it is to be a juror and whether the court room the best place to resolve some of these questions about rape,” said Carolyn Reynolds, chief executive of independent producer Lime Pictures, which makes the soap. “Why don’t we see what it’s like if you’re just given the material you’d be given in court?”
It is hoped the storyline will encourage viewers to look at the issue of consent in a different way.
Dr Catherine White, clinical director at the St Mary’s Sexual Assault Referral Centre in Manchester, said: “We are continuing to work with the Hollyoaks production team to ensure the storyline they have developed is a realistic and well-informed portrayal of what happens when someone is raped or sexually assaulted.”