Nigel Evans found not guilty: After MP is cleared of sexual assaults, parliamentary workers testify to alcohol-fuelled sexual harassment rife at Westminster after dark

 

A drink-fuelled and promiscuous Westminster culture allowed a small group of Tory MPs to make unwanted  sexual advances on young male parliamentary staff, it can be revealed following the conclusion of the Nigel Evans trial.

Today Mr Evans, the former Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons, was unanimously cleared by a jury of a string of sex assaults, following a five-week trial at Preston Crown Court.

The jury accepted Mr Evans's defence that his behaviour had been the "high watermark of over-friendly, inappropriate behaviour by a drunken man" but did not amount to any criminal offence.

Now it can be reported that other, mainly Conservative, MPs regularly got drunk, "flirted" and made passes at young male parliamentary workers during Commons drinking sessions.

One researcher described how he was approached to "go to the Gents" with an MP at an event for young political activists while another said he had been subject to unwelcome advances after an MP invited his entire office staff to a gay bar.

Read more: Young researcher alleged to have been abused calls for overhaul of Westminster's late-night drinking culture
'There would be quite senior MPs, drunk, flirting with us' - one young Tory reveals the after-hours culture in the Commons
Questions raised over high-profile 'witch-hunt' by police
Nigel Evans profile

One of the witnesses in the Evans case told The Independent that while he did not see himself the victim of a criminal act there should be a "curfew" in parliamentary bars to make it more difficult for inappropriate behaviour to take place.

"MPs are working away from home for three or four days at a time. You add to that the late nights, the drinks, the general sense of power and you can easily see a lot of people crossing over that line," he said.

Another parliamentary worker in his 20s at the time describes in The Independent how a group of mainly Tory MPs would regularly go drinking with staff in the building - which could lead to compromising situations.

"There would be quite senior MPs very drunk - flirting with us and sometimes more," he writes. "No one batted an eyelid. The day after it was always one of those things people would gossip about - they would shudder and say 'Did you see what happened last night?'"

The man said that it was not solely the case of the MPs taking advantage of younger staff.  "I think there was complicity on both sides."

Tonight the Conservative Party said it would ask all its MPs to sign up to a new code of conduct setting out their rights and responsibilities as employers. There will also be a new party grievance procedure for staff.

But the scale of the problem was underlined by research by Channel 4 News which spoke to 70 people from all political parties and sexual orientations working in Parliament.

Forty per cent of the men questioned said they had received unwanted sexual advances while a third of those interviewed had personally experienced sexual harassment which they saw as an abuse of power.

One said: "At an event for young political activists I was asked to go to the gents by a certain MP who had always been a nice guy. I just brushed it off. The MP suggested I go to the toilets with him at about 1am, but at 3am I saw him going back to his hotel room with a guy who looked about 18."

Mr Evans, 56, wept in the dock of Preston Crown Court after he was cleared of nine charges, including rape, by the jury. In a statement on the steps of the court the former Deputy Speaker spoke of his "dark and lonely" time going through "hell" as an accused man. "As many of you know I've gone through 11 months of hell," he said. "All I can say is that after [all] that nothing will ever be the same again."

Mr Evans was found not guilty of one count of rape, five sexual assaults, one attempted sexual assault and two indecent assaults.

The verdicts have led to questions being raised about the approach of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to sex cases.

The former shadow Home Secretary David Davis called for the practice of using lesser charges to "reinforce" a more serious one to be looked at.

"This case has highlighted serious concerns over how the police and the CPS bring sexual offence cases to court," he said. "In particular we must now review the process whereby the police and the CPS put together a large number of lesser, subsidiary cases in order to reinforce one serious case when prosecuting sexual offences."

But Lancashire Police and the CPS defended their handling of the case.

In a statement, the CPS said: "The complainants in this case provided clear accounts of the alleged offending and it was right that all of the evidence was put before a jury.

"That evidence could only be fully explored during a trial and the jury has decided, after hearing all of the evidence, that the prosecution has not proved its case beyond reasonable doubt. We respect this decision."

Detective Superintendent Ian Critchley, Lancashire Police's head of public protection, said: "We have worked closely with the CPS from an early stage, and all of the evidence was subjected to careful scrutiny before a decision was taken to charge, particularly where complainants did not see themselves as victims.

"Only after that very careful consideration was the decision made to put this before a jury."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Professor David Nutt wants to change the way gravely ill patients are treated in Britain
people Why does a former Government tsar believe that mind-altering drugs have a place on prescription?
News
Norway’s ‘The Nordland Line – Minute by Minute, Season by Season’ continues the trend of slow TV
television The BBC have commissioned a series of programmes doing away with high-production values, commentary, script or drama
Arts and Entertainment
art
Sport
Jonny Evans has pleaded not guilty to an FA charge for spitting at Papiss Cisse
football
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Consultant - London - £65,000 OTE.

£65000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Engineer - central London ...

Recruitment Genius: Physiotherapist / Sports Therapist

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Physiotherapist / Sports Ther...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Advisor

£8 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives / Advisors are required...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

£14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable