Nigel Evans interview: ‘Even those accused of heinous crimes need trauma counselling’

Following his acquittal, the former Deputy Speaker tells Andy McSmith that those on sex charges need help too

On the last day of his trial, Nigel Evans returned to Preston Crown Court from a lunch break to be told that the jury had finished deliberating and were ready to deliver a verdict.

Returning to the dock, he noticed that where normally there was one warder standing by, there were three. For a moment, he thought this must mean that the verdict was “guilty” and extra warders were on hand in case he “went bonkers” as he was led away.

Another detail caught his eye. The recorder, who was going to read out the charges one by one, had them written on a piece of paper, but the foreman of the jury was empty-handed. Either the foreman had a good memory, or the verdict was the same on all nine charges.

“Charges one and two came out as ‘not guilty’,” Evans recalled, “and three, which was one of the ridiculous ones, and then four, not guilty, and then five – and you could tell that the guy had a rhythm in his voice. After five, somebody’s phone went off, and the judge stopped proceedings to rebuke whoever it was. All I was thinking was, ‘Oh please don’t stop proceedings: just carry on with the verdict’, because my heart was beating, as you can imagine. Without even touching my chest, I could feel my heart beating.

“And then when six was not guilty, and seven, eight, nine, that’s when I started uncontrollably crying. I wasn’t expecting to cry; I didn’t have a handkerchief.”

A minute later, Evans was a free man, standing bewildered in a still-crowded courtroom, not knowing what he was supposed to do next. He had been cleared of raping a university student and sexually assaulting six other men over a 10-year period.

When an MP leaves the Chamber during proceedings in the Commons, he or she is expected to bow to the Speaker, so Evans bowed to the judge, who was thanking the jury, and wandered towards the exit, where a friend, also in tears, took him by the arm and guided him to a side room.

That was seven weeks ago, but Evans describes it as if it just happened – and probably will do so again if someone asks him 10 years from now, because every detail is imprinted on his memory.

He was talking to The Independent in a café in the House of Commons, where he has been reinstated as Conservative MP, and is full of gratitude for the kindness of his fellow politicians, such as his fellow Tory, David Davis, who organised a welcome back party attended by 250 guests.

Read more: Editorial - Trial and error
Questions raised over high-profile 'witch-hunt'

During the interview others came over to chat to Evans: in Parliament, he is well-liked. He hopes and expects to be re-elected in 2015, but had he been found guilty of any of the charges, even one of the lesser ones, he would have resigned his seat immediately.

If he had been found guilty on all nine charges, as he momentarily feared he had, the option of resigning might not have been open to him: an MP sentenced to a long prison term is automatically disqualified. This is a man back from the edge of political death.

His ordeal has been an eye-opener, he said, because “It’s only when you’ve gone through this trauma that you actually appreciate what other people are going through.”

During the conversation, the names of people for whose trauma he feels empathy tumbled out – and all are drawn from that tiny section of the population: famous people who have been accused of sex offences. He mentioned Jim Davidson, Jimmy Tarbuck and Freddie Starr, who were arrested but never charged, Bill Roache – tried and acquitted – and the young president of the Oxford Union, Ben Sullivan, on bail but not charged.

He now believes that people accused but cleared of serious crimes should be entitled to the same counselling that is offered to crime victims. He also feels that those accused of sexual offences should be granted anonymity until they are formally charged.

“There should be some form of counselling for people who go through the trauma of an arrest, after allegations,” he said. “There is nothing out there. There is counselling given to other people, and support given to witnesses, but to those who are accused of some of the most heinous crimes, there is absolutely zero. Let’s take it to a change in the law – anonymity until charged. If it doesn’t go to charge, well you’ve seen the trauma that it caused for Jim Davidson, Jimmy Tarbuck, and latterly Freddie Starr.”

He added: “I remember the police on the steps of Preston Crown Court speaking after my verdict. Let’s say they speak for five minutes: four minutes 50 seconds was all about how right they were on the victims and they  had to get more victims coming, and all that sort of stuff, and there was a 10-second sentence when they said, ‘We appreciate that this has had an impact on Evans.’ That was it: that was their understanding of my pain and trauma, that one sentence.

“As far as I recall, after the Bill Roache case, Bill didn’t even get that. You know that there are a lot of people out there who have gone through this trauma, and it does make you stop to think that at this moment somebody may be standing up in a court now, going through the same sort of trauma. Nobody can say that it does not have enormous implications.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Have you been doing a brilliant job in an admi...

Surrey County Council: Senior Project Officer (Fixed Term to Feb 2019)

£26,498 - £31,556: Surrey County Council: We are looking for an outgoing, conf...

Recruitment Genius: Interim Head of HR

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you an innovative, senior H...

Recruitment Genius: Human Resources and Payroll Administrator

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client, a very well respect...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower