The writers of Hollyoaks are due to pull off a first for the soap at the end of next month by leaving the outcome of a rape trial storyline up to a “jury” of viewers and members of the general public.
In Tuesday’s episode of the programme, characters Gilly Roach (Anthony Quinlan) and Jacqui McQueen (Claire Cooper) were seen entering a bedroom together, with the door closing behind them. But the audience will be kept in the dark about what actually went on between the pair before the trial, which will centre on whether or not consent was given.
A panel made up of a cross-section of the population, including non-Hollyoaks viewers, will be shown the case evidence, advised by a legal professional and asked to decide a verdict, which will ultimately determine the outcome of the case.
Carolyn Reynold, chief executive of Hollyoaks makers Lime Pictures, hopes that this novel, interactive storyline will provide food for thought about the issue of consent: “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…why don’t we see what it’s like if you’re just given the material you’d be given in court?”
The soap, which rarely shies away from controversial issues despite its pre-watershed slot, is likely to draw comment for such a bold manoeuvre, as did BBC series The Verdict in 2007, which saw 12 celebrities decide the outcome of a fictitious trial, and which was damned by many critics at the time for “trivialising” rape.
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