Neil Hamilton tells the Mail that friend Bill Roache had to convince jury in ‘a world conditioned by Jimmy Saville’

Coronation Street actor William Roache speaks to the media outside Preston Crown Court, as he was today found not guilty by a jury of two counts of raping a 15-year-old girl in east Lancashire in 1967, and four indecent assaults involving four girls aged between 11 or 12 and 16 in the Manchester area in 1965 and 1968

Coronation Street actor William Roache speaks to the media outside Preston Crown Court, as he was today found not guilty by a jury of two counts of raping a 15-year-old girl in east Lancashire in 1967, and four indecent assaults involving four girls aged between 11 or 12 and 16 in the Manchester area in 1965 and 1968

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NEIL Hamilton said his close friend Bill Roache had to convince a jury of his innocence in “a world conditioned by Jimmy Saville”.

The 81-year-old actor, best known for his role as Ken Barlow in Coronation Street, was accused of a string of historic sex offences including rape and sexual assault.

He was cleared of all of the allegations but Mr Hamilton says he can understand the torment Mr Roache suffered, having himself been accused of a vile offence he never committed.

Both he and his wife Christine were arrested 13 years ago and accused of a violent rape, but didn’t face the anguish of a trial as it became clear the allegations were lies.

The woman who came up with the vicious story, Nadine Milroy-Sloan, was later sentenced to three years for perverting the course of justice.

But Mr Hamilton says, in cases such as Bill Roache’s trial, celebrities are wrongly deemed guilty until proven innocent.

“We have had contact with him and we know through our own personal experience, although we never went to trial, how ghastly it is,” said Mr Hamilton.

“It was far worse for him, he’s 81, we were only in our 50s.

“Our case was self-evidently ludicrous and it didn’t take that long to demolish the claims.

“He had to convince a jury in a world conditioned by Jimmy Saville that he was innocent.

“I’m well aware from having been in that position, although the law says you are innocent until proven guilty, when you are the accused you know the boot is on the other foot, especially if you’re well known, if you’re a ‘celeb’ like him, you’re actually guilty until proven innocent.

“So it has been a terrible, terrible experience for him and his family.

“You have to remember the family suffers even more than those who are in the headlines. And for what reason? The girl in our case was a money grabber who did it to sell a story to the News of the World.

“In his case we don’t know how it all arose but the allegations related back decades. I can’t understand how the Crown Prosecution Service can possibly imagine that evidence that stale, even if it were true, could be credible in a court of law.

“But it’s the easy way out, lots of injustices of the same kind are now happening, there’s a litany of them going back years.”

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CONTROVERSIAL politician Godfrey Bloom who was expelled from UKIP after describing women as “sluts” was “misrepresented” by the press, according to Mr Hamilton.

But the party’s deputy chairman admitted his long-time friend should have known better and “had to go” after a string of offensive remarks and actions.

Mr Bloom (below) had the UKIP whip removed after describing a room of female delegates at a UKIP conference last year as “sluts”.

Mr Hamilton insists the offensive comment was meant as a joke - but said Mr Bloom was unable to discipline himself to distract attention from his personal sense of humour. And he admitted the headlines which followed were an “inconvenience” for the party.

“Godfrey was misrepresented,” he said.

“He was acting a part and playing up to caricature. All the journalists fell about laughing, I was there, I saw it.

“I’m not going to speak ill of Godfrey, he’s a friend of mine and has got a great deal to offer.

“But he should have known better, he should have known you have to operate in a world where you can be misrepresented.

“You can forgive for once, twice, maybe three times but if it goes on and on and on somebody has to install discipline and that’s sadly what happened.”