Wednesday 20 November 2019

Nigel Evans: 'I made a pass at young Westminster worker but did not sexually assault him'

Former House of Commons deputy speaker Nigel Evans has told a jury he made a pass at a young Westminster worker but did not sexually assault him.

The 56-year-old said he thought the man, in his early 20s, had been "incredibly flirtatious", "over-friendly" and was interested in him.

It led to him making advances to the man as he slept on the MP's sofa in 2009 but the man "exploded" when Evans's hand drifted down his chest, Preston Crown Court heard.

The alleged victim claims that Evans put his hand down his boxer shorts and touched his penis.

The Ribble Valley MP described the interaction between the pair before the alleged sexual assault.

Questioned by his barrister, Peter Wright QC, he said: "Sometimes we would hold hands.

"He was incredibly flirtatious. I got the impression he was interested in me.

"There is no fool like an old fool, Mr Wright."

Evans said he was then made to feel like "a chastened child" when it became clear his advances were unwelcome.

Evans is on trial over allegations that he sexually abused seven young men on various dates between 2002 and last year by using his "powerful" political influence to take advantage of them, often while drunk.

He has pleaded not guilty to one rape, two indecent assaults, five sexual assaults and one attempted sexual assault.

Evans said the complainant, who is bisexual, initially "befriended" him on Facebook.

He said: "I was relatively new to Facebook. He was one of the first few friends I had."

His first impression of him at Westminster was that he was "very personable", "very charming" and "like no one I had met before".

Evans said: "I had never come across somebody who was so open and positive about their own sexuality. I was impressed."

The gay MP said the revelation of his own sexuality was "a step-by-step coming out" as he struggled with the issue.

They would have chats about the subject on the House of Commons terrace while holding hands, he said.

He said: "We would sit very closely together. I don't want go into detail about those stories... we would hold hands.

"My experiences were somewhat more limited than his."

He recalled that he had dinner with the complainant on the night before his mother died in 2009.

The alleged victim came to stay at his house later that year. They were in his local pub in Pendleton when "somebody said something that brought back my mother's death".

Evans said: "(The alleged victim) must have witnessed this. He was incredibly friendly and understanding as to why I was upset. He had his arm around me."

Mr Wright asked him: "How did you interpret those events?"

The MP said: "Incredibly compassionate and someone who was interested in me."

The pair left the pub to return to his nearby home along with others, the court heard. Eventually they were alone downstairs with Evans asleep in the chair and the complainant asleep - both fully clothed - on his sofa.

Evans said he later woke up.

He told the jury: "I went across to where he was lying and lifted the blanket and got in under the blanket with him and he moved up.

"I was making a pass...(it was) the build-up of things over a period of years where we had been over-friendly to each other.

"I thought there was an opportunity to take things further and I made a pass.

"I put my arm over him and he held it. We just dozed for a fair while. I was pleased that he basically had shunted up on the sofa."

Asked whether the complainant had given an indication that his approach was not welcome, he said: "Good grief, no. Quite the opposite."

Evans continued: "At some stage my hand moved just down his chest, towards his stomach.

"He slowly got to my hand and slowly put it to one side.

"It was difficult to interpret it. It may be that he did not want to go somewhere.

"If he had said 'No Nigel, get off the sofa, Nigel', I would have got the message. I thought maybe he wanted to do something later."

They dozed off again before he made another approach, the court heard.

Evans said: "My hand started to go in the same direction as before and that is when he exploded."

The complainant pushed him back and Evans fell off the sofa, the MP told the jury. He said: "My pass was unwelcome and that was it."

Mr Wright asked him: "What did you say?"

Evans replied: "I cannot remember but he said quite a bit. I felt a bit like a chastened child.

"There was a lot of fiery stuff from him but eventually he calmed down and we chatted a bit."

Evans went on to apologise to the complainant for the pass and said he thought it had been accepted.

He admitted sending a text message later to make sure he was "OK" before adding the young man was "indiscreet and may have told other people".

Back in Westminster, the MP found the young man had spoken to the party whips and Evans was called in to explain.

He said: "I felt very let down because I thought the relationship between he and I was such a strength he would have recognised it as just a pass. I thought it was totally unnecessary, what he did."

Evans said that during the meeting with then Tory chief whip Patrick McLoughlin and his deputy John Randall, he admitted he had made a pass, accepted responsibility and apologised.

The MP said he also admitted he had been drinking more since his mother's death and they discussed his sexuality in the meeting.

Evans added: "It was the first Patrick had heard about it."

He said there was no formal sanction - although he could have been in big trouble.

Evans said: "Patrick could have ended my career there and then."

But the matter was not reported to anyone else in the Tory Party, never brought up again by anyone and he was given no "instructions" about his future conduct, he said.

In the event there was a "teary" meeting with the young man in the Family Room, a place for MPs' husbands and wives, in the Commons.

Evans told the jury: "We had a heart to heart there.

"Basically that we were both sorry. I recognised I made a pass that was not welcome and he recognised he sent signals, we were both in tears."

The MP denied ever sexually molesting the young man in the way it had been described by the complainant to the police.

Mr Wright said: "Was it ever said to you by him that you had touched him in an intimate place?"

Evans said: "No."

Mr Wright said: "Or touch his penis? Or genitals? Or put your hand in his boxer shorts?"

Evans replied: "No. Never."

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