Conservative MP Nigel Evans returned to parliamentary duties last week after being cleared of sexual offences in court.
Evans, 56, who represents the Ribble Valley constituency in Lancashire, was found not guilty of two indecent assaults, five sexual assaults and one rape in a trial that lasted over a month.
With fellow Conservative Eleanor Laing having taken the deputy speaker position after his resignation, Evans returns to parliament as the Conservative whip and made his feelings known: “I am delighted to have the Conservative whip again. This represents a full stop after the events of the past 11 months”, Evans said.
And although Evans’s defence team admitted that the former deputy speaker had been an “old fool” with his drinking habits in Westminster which are set to be a thing of the past, Evans took the opportunity to question the judicial system by calling for an investigation into the levels of anonymity involved with sexual offences in court:
Evans said: “The people who bring allegations have anonymity for the rest of their lives, yet those who are accused – it’s not just if you’re a celebrity, it could be anybody – they are not, their names are out there immediately.”
One of the primary reasons for Evans’s dissatisfaction is the fact that he will have to pay a £130,000 legal bill despite being fully acquitted of all crimes. Although it is likely that Evans will have to pay the full amount himself, he has called on the Crown Prosecution Service to pay the fee claiming that his life savings will have to be used to pay for a case he was found innocent of.
In the meantime Evans will not seek the title of deputy speaker back from Laing, preferring to fulfil his role as party whip without any added responsibility. Going into the next election, it is likely that Labour and the Liberal Democrats will exploit the incompetence associated with Westminster’s “drinking culture” to discredit politicians such as Evans further and make gains in parliament.