£130,000 poorer in fees, Nigel Evans admits regret for past support of legal aid cuts

 

Deputy Political Editor

Nigel Evans, who is £130,000 out of pocket after being cleared of sexual assault, has said he regretted his previous support for cutting legal aid.

The Ribble Valley MP had previously condemned the rising cost of legal aid and admitted he would probably have voted for the last round of cuts in 2011 had he not been Deputy Speaker at the time.

He said he was stunned to learn he would have to pay his legal fees even if he was acquitted - plus value added tax. Mr Evans, whose life savings have been wiped out, has pledged to campaign on the issue after his return to the Commons.

Tough new rules on the amount of cash acquitted defendants could claim back were passed in 2011 as the Ministry of Justice sought to trim the legal aid budget.

Bill Waddington, the chairman of the Criminal Law Solicitors' Association, said: "It is interesting it takes something like this for MPs to realise that only two years ago they actually voted for this change against vociferous opposition from the legal community.

"We were saying that it is completely unjust that people who were prosecuted by the state and then acquitted should not recover their fees."

In 1997, as a Tory frontbencher, Mr Evans told the Commons his constituents were "rightly concerned" over the rising cost of legal aid budget and demanded "more value for the pounds that are spent".

Yesterday he conceded he probably would have supported the last tranche of cuts to legal aid.

"It's only when you go through these sorts of trauma that you see the first-hand consequences of that," he told ITV News.

He said people were being "doubly punished by the fact they aren't getting a single penny back".

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