Not guilty: Jury clears Nigel Evans of sexual offence charges

Nigel Evans had consistently denied all the charges - and has now been found not guilty
Nigel Evans had consistently denied all the charges - and has now been found not guilty

By staff

Former Commons deputy Speaker Nigel Evans has been found not guilty on nine counts of assault and rape against seven men.

The Ribble Valley MP, 56, who faced one charge of rape, two of indecent assault and five sexual assaults, as well as a charge of attempted sexual assault, was cleared of all charges by jurors at Preston crown court, who spent over five hours considering their verdict.

Evans broke down in tears on hearing the verdict.

"I've gone through 11 months of hell," he said in a statement outside the court.

"I've not been alone. Many have walked with me.

"I've got work to do. It's the work that I've done for the last 22 years.

"This isn't the time for celebration or euphoria. There are no winners. No celebrations. There's work to do.

"All I can say is after the last 11 months I've gone through, nothing will ever be the same again."

There were questions about the decision of Lancashire police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to bring forward the case, with some raising concerns about the quality of the evidence against Evans.

"Although it concerned a public figure, we've been committed to investigating this matter in the professional way that we would all such allegations," detective superintendent Ian Critchley said.

"We've worked closely with CPS from an early stage and all evidence was subject to scrutiny before charge.

"Only after very careful consideration was the decision made to put this before jurors."

The verdict comes after a five-week long trial in which he faced a series of all egations that he had used his influential position in the Commons to sexually assault young men.

Evans said the sexual encounter which led to the rape charge had been consensual.

His defence barrister, Peter Wright QC, argued the complainant "gave every indication of consent", adding: "Saving his conscience is not the basis on which to convict a man of rape and sexual assault."

He had been sitting as an independent MP after resigning from his job as deputy Speaker in the wake of the allegations.

Labour MP Barry Sheerman said Evans had been through "hell" and had faced a "person torture".

"There are a number of these cases flowing after the [Jimmy] Savile expose," Labour MP Barry Sheerman said.

"These things do seem to become quite of the moment and fashionable... He may be a bit daft on occasions, but never malign. I hope he goes back and picks up all the pieces of his parliamentary career."

Evans is expected to make a statement outside the court shortly.

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