Nigel Evans trial: Former deputy speaker of the Commons acted like a 'lech'

 

The former deputy speaker of the House of Commons acted like a "lech” and a “drunken 14-year-old at the school disco" when he plunged his hands down young Conservative party workers’ trousers, a court has heard.

In evidence, the first two of seven men alleged to have been abused by Nigel Evans, 56, said they did not consider themselves as victims of sex crime and that they came forward only after being contacted by police following the MP’s arrest for alleged rape in 2013.

The trial has heard how senior Tory figures including the then-chief whip Patrick McLoughlin urged Mr Evans to modify his drinking and behaviour following claims of an assault on a young man four years before he was arrested.

The prosecution has alleged that Mr Evans, who denies all charges against him, abused his position of authority over young people with political ambitions and was repeatedly warned over his predatory actions.

The first man, now in his 30s, said that Mr Evans’ sexuality was an “open secret in Westminster”.

Describing an incident in 2003 in which the MP is alleged to have twice touched his buttocks, he told Preston Crown Court: “Rather than being of a sexual nature I would say it was drunken over-familiarity,” he said. “It was almost like a drunken 14-year-old at the school disco who can't chat you up with words,” he said.

The witness, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said he could not be certain exactly when or where the incident took place although he believed it was in a Soho bar called Sanctuary. He was drinking with friends when Mr Evans “sidled up” to him.

Both men had been drinking although the then shadow cabinet member was “drunker”, he said.

He said he had moved away because “I can't punch the Shadow Secretary of State for Wales.

“We treated it like a big joke... Crazy, crazy Westminster. It doesn't seem very funny any more,” he added.

The witness said that he had "almost forgotten" the incident and had forgiven the MP, whom he continued to consider a friend. He said that following Mr Evans' arrest, he sent him an email urging him to “stay strong”.

The second man, who is said to have been indecently assaulted by Mr Evans whilst he drank with a journalist friend in a late night bar at the Imperial Hotel Blackpool during the 2003 Conservative Party Conference, was also approached by police last year.

“To be honest I didn't think they were any grounds to be charged," he told the court. “I would not have believed that six months on I would be standing in a witness box,” he added.

Recalling the incident he said Mr Evans had been visibly intoxicated when he put his hand down the waistband of his trousers. He said he felt "annoyed" and “embarrassed” and was worried that the journalist had observed what happened. Having batted away his attentions he spoke to a senior party official who moved Mr Evans to another part of the bar but he later returned and is again alleged to have touched him in a sexually provocative manner before being led away by two colleagues.

The following day he spoke to a junior whip and suggested Mr Evans had a drink problem but said he did not want the matter pursued.

“I felt like it was someone being a bit of a drunken lech in a bar. I did not think it was particularly a seminal event,” he said. Mr Evans lost his front bench position in the next reshuffle.

The trial continues.

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