Cleared MP vows to return to work after trial

Nigel Evans
Nigel Evans
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Former Commons deputy speaker Nigel Evans wept in the dock after he was unanimously cleared of a string of sexual offences at the end of a five-week trial.

The jury at Preston Crown Court found Mr Evans, 56, not guilty of nine sexual allegations, including one of rape.

Outside court, the Ribble Valley MP said he wanted to get back to work.

“Bill Roache, just a few weeks ago from this very spot, said there are no winners in these cases and that’s absolutely right, there are no winners, so no celebrations,” he said. “But the fact is I’ve got work to do, work that I’ve done for the last 22 years.”

He referred to having gone through “11 months of hell” since his arrest last May and added that “nothing will ever be the same again”.

Mr Evans was found not guilty of one count of rape, five sexual assaults, one attempted sexual assault and two indecent assaults.

Three of his seven alleged victims did not consider an offence had been committed against them.

A fourth man said he “had a bit of a giggle” about Mr Evans’s supposed sexual assault on him, while a fifth man came forward to the police with his allegations but two days later said he wanted to withdraw them and did not wish the MP to be questioned about “a drunken misunderstanding”.

All five, plus another man, did not make complaints to police at the time of the alleged offences.

The only contemporaneous complaint was that of the young man who triggered the investigation by Lancashire Constabulary when he said Mr Evans had raped him weeks earlier.

After the trial, Conservative former prisons minister Crispin Blunt said the prosecution had been “artificial” and the verdict had not come as the “slightest surprise”.

He told Sky News: “If you look at how the case was constructed against Nigel, a lot of the complainants, well, they weren’t complainants, they did not regard themselves as victims and they didn’t actually want to be in court.

“So, this, to a degree, was quite an artificial prosecution.”

Former shadow home secretary David Davis called for a review of the process whereby the police and the CPS put together a large number of lesser, subsidiary cases in order to reinforce one serious case when prosecuting sexual offences.

Lancashire Constabulary said the evidence was subjected to “careful scrutiny” before Mr Evans was charged, particularly to those complainants who did not see themselves as victims.

Detective Superintendent Ian Critchley, the force’s head of public protection, said: “We have worked closely with the CPS from an early stage, and all of the evidence was subjected to careful scrutiny before a decision was taken to charge, particularly where complainants did not see themselves as victims.

“Only after that very careful consideration was the decision made to put this before a jury in the belief that there was sufficient evidence to justify a realistic prospect of conviction.”

Mr Evans was a Conservative MP before he was elected in 2010 as one of three deputy speakers, a politically neutral role. He stepped down as a deputy speaker last September after he was charged with the offences, involving men who were all in their 20s at the time. He has not returned to the Conservatives in the Commons and is representing his constituents as an independent.

Prime Minister David Cameron hinted that Mr Evans will be brought back into the Tory fold.

“I very much welcome what he said on the steps of the court and I think everyone should pay heed to that. I’m sure he will want to get on with working with his constituents in the Ribble Valley and, as for the future, I’m sure it’s something he’ll be discussing with the chief whip when he returns to Parliament.”