RIBBLE Valley MP Nigel Evans's ‘struggle with his own sexuality’ may have led him to commit indecent acts, a jury has been told.
Preston Crown Court heard that Evans knew he was gay by the time he was elected in 1992 but did not reveal it publicly until the end of 2010.
From 2000 onwards the 56-year-old former Commons deputy speaker said in evidence that he began to seek men for sexual relationships.
In 2003 Evans is alleged to have indecently assaulted two men in their 20s when he approached them in public places while in drink and put his hand down their trousers.
Evans denies the offences and has also pleaded not guilty to charges of rape, sexual assault and attempted sexual assault involving five other young men.
In his closing speech to the jurors yesterday ((FRI)), prosecutor Mark Heywood QC said he acknowledged that they had heard than more 30 ‘eloquent references’ to Evans.
His character and achievements could be seen to be ‘a given’ but a different picture of him had emerged in evidence, the barrister said.
Mr Heywood said: "Why is it that a man like Nigel Evans finds himself in this situation here? You will have to consider that.
"Is it perhaps born of a long life of service but obscuring a truth which he himself was reluctant to first admit and then to publicise? A struggle with his own sexuality that led eventually to a decision at the beginning of the last decade to pursue contact with others?
"Was it simply that, at the start of those events, he was unable to do it as others had done and do, coming to it so late?
"Is that what lies behind some of this?"
His first alleged victim, a Westminster worker, was standing at a Soho bar with friends when Evans is said to have sidled up to him and placed his hand down the back of his trousers.
The witness went on to tell police that it was akin to the approach of ‘a drunken 14-year-old at a disco’.
Mr Heywood said this event was the start of a theme in the case.
He told the jury: "This is groping. This is hands down the back of the trousers while standing there. No eye contact. No words.”
Evans has told the court he has no recollection of that incident or a similar one in Blackpool.
Earlier, two Conservative MPs gave evidence for the defence in person to testify to Evans's character.
Northampton South MP Brian Binley said he considered Evans to be a ‘good friend’. Married Mr Binley said he had shared a flat in London with Mr Evans for the past four years.
He said: "Nigel is a caring, gentle, considerate person who I consider to be a very good friend of mine."
Peter Wright QC, asked him: "Throughout the time you have known him, have you ever had cause for concern for his conduct?"
Mr Binley replied: "No sir."
Colonel Bob Stewart, MP for Beckenham and the former United Nations Commander of British Forces in Bosnia, said he had known Evans ‘on and off’ for 20 years.
He said: "He is always charming. I cannot think of a moment he has shown any aggression with anyone.”
Asked if he had ever had cause for concern with Evans's conduct, the MP replied: "No, never.”
The trial continues on Monday when Mr Wright will deliver his closing speech to the jury.