THE openly-gay former deputy speaker of the British House of Commons has spoken of his “11 months of hell” after being cleared of nine separate sex offences, including the rape of a university student more than half his age. 

Nigel Evans, the Conservative MP for Ribble Valley in the northern English county of Lancashire, reportedly wept as the charges were one-by-one dismissed last week.

Speaking outside Preston Crown Court, Evans, who came out publicly in 2010, said: “As many of you know I’ve gone through 11 months of hell. There are no winners in these cases, so no celebration.”

Evans was first arrested in May 2013 following allegations he had raped a 21-year-old student at his home following a dinner party.

The MP resigned from his position as deputy speaker in September 2013 when further allegations came to light. These included that in a bar in London’s gay district of Soho, he approached a man in and put his hand down his trousers.

During the trial, Evans’ barrister Peter Wright QC said there were inconsistencies in the central rape allegation. The MP said it was consensual.

Wright told the court: “In the cold light of day, the complainant may regret what had taken place and how far it had actually gone. But such sentiments are some considerable distance removed from an incident of sexual assault and rape.”

It also emerged that some of the other alleged victims were reluctant to take the stand, with one telling ITV News: “I don’t believe he should have been charged. I don’t think it was a criminal act. It’s the sort of thing that happens in every bar. It wasn’t a big deal.”

A Crown Prosecution Service spokesperson defended the handling of the case: “The complainants in this case provided clear accounts of the alleged offending and it was right that all of the evidence was put before a jury.”

British Prime Minister David Cameron said it was hard to imagine the relief the MP must be feeling and hinted at a return to senior ranks: “As for the future, I’m sure it’s something he’ll be discussing with the Chief Whip when he returns to Parliament.”

(Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

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