Ribble Valley MP acted like drunken 14-year-old at a school disco, court told (From Lancashire Telegraph)
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Ribble Valley MP acted like drunken 14-year-old at a school disco, court told
ONE of Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans’ alleged indecent assault victims emailed him shortly after the politician was arrested on suspicion of rape, a court was told.
The man, who claimed the former deputy speaker of the House of Commons put his hand down his trousers ‘at least once’ at a London bar around a decade earlier, told the jury he wanted to check that his ‘friend’ was ok.
Preston Crown Court was told that the man had ‘emotionally and physically brushed off’ the incident and that Mr Evans, 56, had been acting like a ‘drunken 14-year-old at a school disco’.
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A second victim described the MP’s behaviour as that of ‘a drunken lech’.
Reading the first alleged victim’s police statement, Peter Wright, defending, said: “Rather than being of a sexual nature, I would say it was drunken over familiarity.”
The witness, aged around 27 at the time, said he could not remember ‘with absolute clarity’ where the alleged attack happened, but that his ‘best guess’ was they were in the Sanctuary Bar in London.
He told the court: “My first recollection of that night is when he put his hand down my trousers.
“We were drinking. Nigel had had quite a few. He was acting very drunk.
“The fingers had gone down my trousers. I thought ‘oh’. He had a reputation.
“I felt a hand go down the back of my trousers between my shirt and my trousers.
“The way I explained it to myself is he was too drunk to know what he was doing.”
He went on to describe how he pulled away from Evans, then shadow secretary of state for Wales. He told the court he could not be sure if it had happened once or twice more.
The witness said: “I did not want him to think I was interested. Not in all the time I have known him would he have got the impression I was interested.
“It was annoying, but at the same time, he was my friend and I did not want to make a scene about it.
“I had almost forgotten about it, but it happened.”
The jury heard the man told his friend what had happened, but said he had never considered himself the victim of an indecent assault.
Summing up his statements, Mr Wright said: “It happened and you physically and emotionally brushed it off. You were annoyed at the time, but the annoyance was short-lived. You treated it like a joke.”
The witness added: “It was over 10 years ago. I forgave him. He was drunk and I had almost forgotten about it.”
He denied claims Evans could have put his hand on the alleged victim’s trousers because he was drunk and needed to steady himself.
Evans’ sexuality was an ‘open secret’ in Westminster, although he had not then made a public announcement, the court was told.
The incident was reported when police approached him after Evans had been arrested on suspicion of rape.
The alleged victim then emailed the defendant.
He told the jury: “I could not believe it. I sent him an email saying ‘if you want to come for a drink with us, I hope you are ok. Stay strong.’”
Evans is charged with two counts of indecent assault, six of sexual assault and one of rape. There are seven alleged victims. He denies all the allegations. The second victim gave his account of Evans allegedly twice putting his hand down his trousers at the 2003 Conservative party conference in Blackpool.
But the then Tory party worker told the jury he did not consider it a criminal sexual assault, and more the behaviour of ‘a drunken lech’.
The man said he did not know Evans at the time but, as a shadow frontbench member, he ‘knew of him’.
He was standing three to four yards away from the bar when Evans joined his group. The witness said he had been drinking but ‘compared to some people in the room’ was ‘quite sober’.
Asked about Evans’ state, he replied: “He was clearly very, very heavily intoxicated. Quite visibly so.
“The body language... The way he was standing. I very rarely see people that drunk. He was clearly someone who had had enough.”
He said Evans came to stand on his left, while on his right was a tabloid journalist.
“Then Mr Evans basically started putting his hand on the top of my belt, on my waist line,” he said. “After a couple of seconds I realised he was actually putting his hand across and putting his fingers down.”
He said he ensured it stopped straightaway and there was no skin-to-skin contact.
But he was ‘very conscious’ he was near a journalist and ‘batted’ Evans’ hand away.
The witness recalled speaking to a member of the Conservative Party Board, who moved Evans to a different group in the bar. But within five minutes a ‘carbon copy’ of the incident took place.
The man said: “This time I was actually quite angry... I thought it has gone a bit too far.” He brought the matter to the attention of a prospective parliamentary candidate, now an MP, and an MEP.
He said a short time later he saw them leading Evans to his room. The witness told the court he had not planned to pursue the matter.
The next day, he was approached by a junior whip in the conference lobby, but he ‘made it very clear’ he ‘didn’t want it to be pursued’.
He recalled telling the whip Evans clearly had a problem with drink and it might be wise to tell him that he probably should not be drinking in conference bars late at night.
At the shadow cabinet reshuffle a month later, Evans was removed from his post as shadow Wales secretary.
Mr Wright said: “You considered the matter closed... for the best part of 10 years?”
“Yes,” he replied. “It was history. At absolute most, an occasional piece of tittle tattle.”