The former Chief Crown Prosecutor has criticised Coronation Street for broadcasting an inaccuracy which could stop sexual assault victims coming forward.
The ITV programme came under fire this week when it showed a court sketch being made of Bethany Platt as she bravely took to the stand to talk about her harrowing grooming ordeal at the hands of Nathan Curtis.
A court artist must always draw from memory and must not draw victims – and as a victim of sexual assault, Bethany would be granted anonymity for life.
Former Chief Crown Prosecutor Nazir Afzal said he was ‘concerned’ about the error, adding victims may now feel ‘uncomfortable’ giving evidence.
Bethany Platt (Lucy Fallon) bravely took to the stand in court to talk about her grooming ordeal
But the ITV programme came under fire when it showed a court sketch being made of Bethany
Eagle-eyed viewers quickly noticed the major error on Monday night’s episode of Coronation Street.
One viewer took to Twitter to point out: ‘Erm, why would a court artist be sketching Bethany? She’s automatically entitled to anonymity. #Corrie #CoronationStreet.’
Another added: ‘They have to sketch outside of the courts too not allowed to do so inside.’
Mr Afzal had praised the programme for its portrayal of sex grooming gangs and encouraging victims to come forward.
However he told the BBC: ‘But I’m concerned over their mistake. A court artist must always draw from memory and must not draw victims.
‘We make an enormous play of telling victims that nobody will know who you are.
‘Those victims might pick up the mistake and it might make them uncomfortable and we shouldn’t have to do that.
‘We’re having to put the genie back in the bottle; we’re having to fix something, which should be unnecessary.’
Mr Afzal praised the programme for its portrayal of sex grooming gangs – but said the error could prevent victims coming forward
The distressing storyline reached a new level of tension this week as both Nathan and Bethany appeared in court for the long-awaited trial.
Nathan was finally arrested for the sexual exploitation of his young girlfriend after forcing her to have sex with his friends in a series of sordid ‘parties’.
Upcoming episodes will see groomer Nathan determined to stop Bethany from testifying against him.
Mr Afzal led the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in North West England from 2011 to 2015. He became the first Muslim to be appointed to such a position and was Britain’s most senior lawyer within the CPS.
He proved himself to be an outspoken advocate of bringing to justice those accused of the most heinous and sometimes sensitive offences.
This included a move to overturn an earlier decision on an Asian Rochdale sex grooming ring that led to a series of convictions.
This year he stepped down from his position as chief executive of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC) to make an appearance on the BBC’s Question Time and debate the Manchester terror attack.
Barnardo’s chief executive, Javed Khan, said: ‘Perpetrators of child sexual exploitation like Nathan Curtis use threats and intimidation to keep their victims silent.
‘Just like Bethany in Coronation Street, victims show a great deal of bravery when they speak up about their abuse and disclose it to police.
‘It takes even more courage, tenacity and emotional resilience to see that through the whole criminal justice process.
‘That’s why it’s so vital for victims of child sexual abuse and exploitation to be offered one-to-one support from an independent practitioner who will support them through the whole process, from disclosure and police investigation, right through any court case and beyond.’