Lancashire

Nigel Evans trial: MP 'put hand down victim's trousers'

Nigel Evans Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mr Evans resigned as deputy speaker after he was charged in September

MP Nigel Evans put his hand down a man's trousers during a night out in London's Soho, a court has heard.

The former deputy speaker of the House of Commons had a "reputation", Preston Crown Court was told.

The man said he dismissed the "drunken" incident and did not consider himself a victim, but agreed to make a statement when contacted by police last year.

Mr Evans, 56, denies one count of rape, two counts of indecent assault and six of sexual assault.

The charges relate to incidents involving seven men, between 2002 and 2013.

The alleged victim, who is openly gay, told the court that at first he thought Mr Evans was being tactile during the night out in 2002, but it was "not a sort of comedy squeeze".

He said at the time it was an "open secret" in Westminster that the politician was gay.

He told the jury they were out with friends when Mr Evans, then the shadow secretary of state for Wales, indecently assaulted him by putting his hand down his trousers at a pub called the Sanctuary on Greek Street in Soho.

"He had definitely been drinking, he was acting very drunk and I do remember he seemed to sober up quite quickly," he said.

Mark Heywood QC, prosecuting, asked the man when he became first aware of something untoward.

Image copyright Julia Quenzler
Image caption The witness said Mr Evans had not made sexual overtures to him before or since the incident in Soho

He said: "That some fingers had gone down my trousers. He had a reputation.

"I walked away rather than make a scene. I did not want him to think I was interested."

He told the court: "I was annoyed by it.

"I thought if I don't walk away I'm going to hit him."

The man said the MP for Ribble Valley in Lancashire then put his hand down his trousers again, prompting the witness, then aged 27, to tell a friend: "I'm going to punch him."

He told the court: "She said, 'You can't do that - the shadow secretary of state for Wales'."

The witness said at the time the politician "was my friend, and I certainly forgave him for it because he was drunk."

"I have almost forgotten it," he said.

He confirmed he had socialised with Mr Evans since but had never discussed the matter.

'A big joke'

Under cross examination from Peter Wright QC, defending, he told the jury he considered the matter at the time "as like a big joke".

"When I heard he had been arrested I could not believe it," he said. "I saw him in a corridor and he looked really dreadful."

"Not in a million years," did he consider it would have resulted in him appearing in court, he said.

The court also heard from another man who was allegedly indecently assaulted at the Conservative Party conference in Blackpool, Lancashire in 2003.

The man, a parliamentary worker at the time, said the thought of complaining to the police when the alleged assault happened had never occurred to him.

Last year when questioned by detectives he said he did not wish to make a complaint and only gave a statement as a witness so that his account was "on the record".

"To be honest I didn't think they were any grounds to be charged," he said.

"I would not have believed that six months on I would be standing in a witness box."

'Batted hand away'

The events were said to have taken place in the Number 10 conference bar at the Imperial Hotel in Blackpool in October 2003.

The witness told the court: "Mr Evans basically starting putting his hand on the top of my belt, on my waist line.

"After a couple of seconds I realised he was actually putting his hand across and putting his fingers down."

He said he was "very conscious" a journalist was nearby and quietly "batted" Evans's hand away.

The witness recalled speaking to a member of the Conservative Party Board about the incident who went over and moved Evans to a different group in the bar.

But within five minutes a "carbon copy" of the incident took place as Evans came over and "did the exact same thing again", he said.

He brought the matter to the attention of a prospective parliamentary candidate, now a MP, and a MEP, who led Evans to his room.

When he gave a statement to police, he said he considered that Evans's problem was with alcohol rather than with a "sexually aggressive personality".

He told the court: "At no point when looking back at it now did I see any malice or any sexual intent. It was an alcohol problem, as far as I see it."

He said he had not seen it as a police matter.

A month later when Michael Howard replaced Iain Duncan Smith as party leader, Mr Evans was removed as shadow secretary of state for Wales, the jury was told.

In the summer of 2009, Mr Evans tried to kiss another man he had met while drinking with others at the Strangers' Bar in the Houses of Parliament, jurors heard.

The man, then aged 21 or 22, told the court the MP called him over to a corridor area and pulled a curtain around him but he said "no" when Mr Evans tried to kiss him.

The court heard that when they returned to the group the witness told his friend who replied: "That's what Nigel can be like."

The man told police he did not believe Mr Evans had committed any offences.

Mr Evans resigned as deputy speaker after he was charged in September.

He has not returned to the Conservatives in the Commons and is representing his constituents as an independent.

The trial continues.

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