Coronation Street veteran William Roache has apologised after comments he made about sexual abuse victims in a television interview sparked outrage today.
The 80-year-old actor – who plays Ken Barlow in the ITV soap – made the claim during an interview with New Zealand TV, in which he said that society should "not be judgemental about anybody, ever" and that famous people could be “caught in the trap” of sleeping with underage girls.
“Paedophilia is absolutely horrendous. Paedophiles should be sought out, rooted out and dealt with," Roache told NZTV’s Garth Bray.
“But there’s a fringe of people who, particularly pop singers, they have these groupies. These girls who come, they’re sexually active, sexually mature. They don’t ask for their birth certificate, they don’t know what age they may be.
“But they’re certainly not grooming them and exploiting them, but they can be caught in this trap.
"Whether they’re proven guilty or not, we should not be judgmental about anybody, ever. We should always be totally forgiving about everything.”
Roache then repeated a belief he voiced last September, telling Bray that “if you know that you are pure love and therefore live that pure love, these things won’t happen to you.”
Asking Roache to clarify his position, Bray said: “To some people, that sounds perhaps like you’re saying victims bring things on themselves. Is that what you’re saying?’
Roache replied: “Not quite, but then, yes I am, because everything that happens to us has been a result of what we have been in previous lives.”
Dr Jon Bird of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood condemned Roache’s sentiments and said: “He has belittled the pain of others. He should be ashamed.”
In a statement released today, Roache apologised, saying "I am very sorry for any offence that has been caused as a result of my comments.
"I would never say that victims of sexual offences are in any way responsible for the abuse they have suffered and I offer my deepest apologies if anything I have said has been misunderstood in this way.
"I had no intention of causing any kind of distress as a result of my interview and I offer my utmost sympathies to anyone affected by sexual offences and paedophilia."