William Roache’s return to Coronation Street following his acquittal on sexual assault charges is likely to take place over a period of several months rather than a matter of days or weeks.
After being cleared of all charges today, Roache, 81, who has played Ken Barlow on the ITV soap for over 50 years, said “I want to get back to work". But while ITV subsequently released a statement saying "We look forward to talking to Bill soon about his return to work", it is understood that the actor is unlikely to appear on Coronation Street again until the second half of 2014.
The soap is currently filming episodes set for transmission in April, with storylines already written that will take it up to July. That means Ken’s return would have to be planned for some point after that.
Coronation Street bosses are thought to be keen to ensure that any plotline provides a credible reason and timescale for the character to return from his trip to Canada, where he is looking after his grandson Adam Barlow following Adam’s collapse at work.
The explanation for Ken’s absence was revealed in July 2013, two months after Roache’s last appearance on Coronation Street.
The actor was arrested on 1 May. Prior to his acquittal today, he had been on trial at Preston Crown Court since 14 January.
Speaking outside the courtroom, Roache said: "In these situations there are no winners and I think we should all be a lot kinder to ourselves. Now, if you'll excuse me, I want to get back to work."