Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans used influence for sex, court told

MP Nigel Evans

Nigel Evans at Preston Crown Court yesterday.

First published in East Lancashire
Last updated
Chorley Citizen: Photograph of the Author by , Crime reporter

RIBBLE Valley MP Nigel Evans sexually abused young men in Parliament and at the Conservative Party conference, a court heard.

The former Deputy Speaker used his ‘powerful’ influence to sexually assault seven young men, a jury was told. He had the ‘ability to make or break’ the careers of those who wished to work in Westminster.

Evans exploited his position and ‘pressed his sexual attentions’ on his victims, and carried on doing so despite being warned about his behaviour by senior Tories, a Crown prosecutor said.

It was also alleged that Evans was often ‘in drink’ when he struck. On one occasion he was described as being ‘plastered’.

In one of the alleged incidents the complaint, who was about 21, was in a group which included Evans, in the Strangers Bar in the Houses of Parliament.

The man was in a corridor outside the bar when Evans beckoned him towards a curtain across a small lobby and tried to kiss him, the court heard.

Prosecutor Mark Heywood QC said the final alleged victim was raped at Evans’ Pendleton home.

The 56-year-old has gone on trial accused of raping and sexually assaulting one man, indecently assaulting two others and sexually assaulting another four.

Evans denies all of the charges, claiming the events were entirely consensual, the result of misreading signals or that they simply did not happen.

Mr Heywood said the defendant continued to sexually abuse men despite being warned about his behaviour.

Opening the case, he told the jury: "Within the Palace of Westminster, in his constituency and in his own political party, Mr Evans was, during the decade with which you are concerned, a very well-known and powerful individual.

"Part of his influence included the ability to make, or to break, the careers of those young people who themselves would be politicians or work for those who govern.

"The prosecution case against Mr Evans is that he, often when in drink, pressed his sexual attentions on those younger men, using or trading on his position of influence.

"Now this behaviour did not happen once but has been repeated over time and despite repeated warnings given to him by others.

"It has also escalated in seriousness, no doubt because he believed that his position made it less than likely that someone would complain."

The first alleged offence happened in late 2002, with the complainant, an openly gay man, aged 27.

They were at a busy bar in London’s Soho, either the Red Cube in Leicester Place or the Green Carnation, and Evans had been drinking.

Mr Heywood said: "Whilst the complainant was standing talking to someone else he felt a hand going down the back of his trousers.

"There was no words, no warning or invitation.

"The complainant neither wanted nor consented to the act."

The second complainant was allegedly assaulted at the Conservative Party conference in Blackpool in 2003.

He was drinking with a friend, at some time between midnight and 3am at a bar called Number 10 within the Imperial Hotel.

Mr Evans was there and was described as being 'plastered', Mr Heywood said.

Evans stood next to the complainant and 'without warning or any kind of invitation' put his hand underneath the man's suit and into the top of his waistband.

He then tried to put his hand down the young man's trousers, it was alleged.

Mr Heywood said: "(The alleged victim) was annoyed and embarrassed. He made it clear to Mr Evans that he did not want to be touched in this way."

A member of the Conservative Party Board then stepped in and moved the defendant away from the group. But about 10 minutes later Evans returned and 'did exactly the same thing again', said Mr Heywood.

The following morning the complainant said he considered he had been a victim of a sexual assault, but he did not report the matter to the police.

The court was told the next alleged victim of a sexual assault was a gay man who was interested in working in Parliament.

He had accepted an invitation from a friend to see the House of Commons in the summer of 2009 and look at how it worked.

The complainant, aged about 21, was in a group, which included Evans, gathered in the Strangers Bar at the Houses of Parliament.

The man was in the corridor outside the bar when Evans beckoned him towards a curtain that pulls across a small lobby.

Mr Heywood said: "The defendant, who appeared a bit drunk, leaned towards him and went to kiss him.

"The younger man was at first shocked and said no.

"He pushed him back and the defendant said 'oh no, it's okay' and leaned in again to kiss.

"He said 'no, it's fine but we're not doing that'."

The complainant returned to the bar, told his friend what had happened but afterwards considered the matter closed.

The fourth alleged sexual assault is said to have happened in early July 2009 at Evans' home in Pendleton after he and the victim had been drinking at the pub next door.

The MP went to bed and the younger man undressed to his boxer shorts, covered himself with a blanket and went to sleep on the sofa in the sitting room.

The younger man said he woke to find Evans close behind him, perched on the edge of the sofa.

Evans is then accused of putting his hand under the blanket and inside the boxer shorts of the younger man.

"The reaction was telling," Mr Heywood said.

"The younger man immediately pushed the defendant across the room and screamed at him, 'What the hell do you think you're doing?'

"The defendant asked him to calm down and apologised, saying he had got carried away and he had misunderstood."

When the young man got home he contacted Adam Price, at the time a Plaid Cymru MP, who put him in touch with Michael Fabricant, a Tory whip who told him to leave the matter with him, the court heard.

A meeting was arranged with the complainant, Patrick McLoughlin MP, at the time the Opposition Chief Whip, John Randall MP and Iain Corby, managing director of the Policy Research Unit Ltd.

The young man wanted Evans to resign.

"That would be difficult," Mr Heywood continued, "because at that stage in 2009, there was a general election coming and there may be local by-elections.

"It was not thought then, that was the obvious thing to happen. In the event the young man agreed.

"Mr Evans would be spoken to, he would seek help for his drinking.

"Mr Evans was spoken to. He did not deny for one minute the event. He was given words of advice, those included that from that time on, not to put himself in situations in which allegations of this nature might arise again."

It was as a result of this incident that Evans was advised to come out as gay.

The fifth alleged assault is said to have happened as Evans and another young man were at the Strangers Bar.

Without warning, Evans reached out and groped him, the jury was told.

Another man aged around 27 at the time, the sixth alleged victim, came forward and told police that he had been assaulted after hearing about the defendant's arrest in the press.

It is alleged Evans pushed the man into a room, grabbed at him and kissed him.

The final alleged victim, 22, was sexually assaulted twice and raped at Evans' Pendleton home last year, it was alleged.

Both were sitting on the sofa when Evans moved his hand towards the man’s lower abdomen, said the prosecutor.

The younger man at first did not say or do anything ‘conscious of a man who was able to affect his future’.

He was guided to the bedroom by Evans and lay in bed in the hope of getting to sleep - but that was not on the mind of the MP, the court heard.

The complainant said he spurned his advances and at one point told Evans he was tired and that the MP had ‘church in the morning’.

The younger man left the bed and locked himself in the bathroom. He texted a friend, who is another complainant against Evans.

He wrote: "Help me."

And then: "Nigel has tried to stick his tongue down my throat three times."

His friend later replied: "Punch him or leave. Punching him probably won't have consequences. When he did it to me I pushed him across the room. He didn't try it again."

The friend added: "Try to go in the loft. He will be too pissed to negotiate up the stairs."

Further unwanted sexual activity continued when he returned to the bedroom, said the prosecutor. Both went to sleep and the student awoke a couple of hours later when he was being raped on the bed, the jury heard.

Evans was said not to be "particularly aggressive or forceful" but the experience was painful for the alleged victim.

The trial is set to continue at Preston Crown a Court today (tues).

High profile politicians including House of Commons Speaker John Bercow, Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop, the Secretary of State for transport Patrick McLoughlin and Conservative party vice chairman Michael Fabricant could give evidence during the hearing, which may last up to five weeks.

Liberal Democrat Lembit Opik and Plaid Cymru politician Adam Price may also be called.

(Proceeding)

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