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No winners from sex offence trial, says East Lancs MP Nigel Evans
Updated 3:03pm Friday 11th April 2014 in News
NIGEL Evans yesterday said ‘nothing will ever be the same again’ after being cleared of sex offences.
The Ribble Valley MP said there were ‘no winners’ from the four-week trial.
He added there would be no celebrations as he went back to work for his constituents at Westminster.
After hearing the jury declare him ‘not guilty’ of committing nine sexual offences against seven young men, including one of rape, he described ‘11 months of hell’.
He spoke of how his Christian faith had supported him through his ‘darkest and loneliest times’.
Shortly after the verdicts were read to a tearful Mr Evans, Prime Minister David Cameron hinted the MP would be welcomed back into the Tory ranks at Westminster.
He had been technically an ‘independent’ whilst Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons and then fighting to clear his name.
Speaking outside Preston Crown Court shortly after the jury took less than five hours of deliberations to clear him of all charges, Mr Evans said: “As many of you know I've gone through 11 months of hell.
“I've not been alone. Many have walked with me including my team at Clitheroe and Westminster, my constituency association, my family, my friends, my constituents and indeed many people who I don't even know.
“The fact is I've got work to do. It's the work that I've done for the last 22 years so this isn't a time for celebration or euphoria.
“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.
“After the last 11 months that I've gone through, nothing will ever be the same again."
Coronation Street actor Mr Roache had been cleared of sex charges at the same court earlier this year.
Lancashire Police defended the decision to prosecute after senior Conservatives called for a review of the handling of high-profile sex cases.
Former shadow Home Secretary David Davis said: “This case has highlighted serious concerns over how the police and the Crown Prosecution Service bring sexual offence cases to court.
“It is clear from the way that this case proceeded that there is a risk of a serious injustice being done to an innocent man, and I would call on the Attorney General to urgently review this issue.”
Lancashire Constabulary’s Head of Public Protection Detective Superintendent Ian Critchley said: “All of the evidence was subjected to careful scrutiny before a decision was taken to charge.
“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.
“Lancashire Constabulary remains committed to investigating allegations of this nature, no matter how historic, and no matter what the role, position and status of the alleged offender, and we would encourage anyone who has been a victim of a sexual offence to come forward.”
Mr Evans faced claims from seven men that he sexually abused them when they were in their 20s.
The first alleged he put a hand down the back of his trousers in a Soho pub.
The second said the MP behaved like "a drunken lech" in a similar incident at the Conservative Party conference in Blackpool in 2003.
A gay man in his early 20s said Mr Evans tried to kiss him in the Houses of Parliament in summer of 2009.
The fourth allegation involved the MP allegedly placing his hand down the boxer shorts of the young man while he slept on the sofa at his Pendleton constituency home.
He made a complaint to the Conservative Whips and demanded Mr Evans should resign.
The MP was told to apologise to the complainant and was warned about his drinking.
Shortly after the 2010 general election, Evans was alleged to have "cupped" the complainant's genitals on being introduced at Westminster.
In the sixth case, the complainant said the MP pushed him into a dark kitchenette at Westminster and then groped him.
The final three charges of rape and sexual assault, which triggered the police investigation and arrest involved a 22-year-old who claimed he was raped by Mr Evans at the Pendleton house last Easter.
Mr Evans claimed the encounter was consensual. His barrister suggested the complainant regretted the liaison with a considerably older man.
Mr Cameron said it was "hard to imagine the relief" Mr Evans was feeling.
He added: "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."
Blackburn MP Jack Straw said: “I am very pleased and relieved for Nigel. I’ve known him for 22 years and have always found him decent and straightforward.
“I hope that he will now be able to put this nightmare behind him.”