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‘System must help wrongly accused men’

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It was business as usual for acquitted Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans who returned to work at his constituency office in Clitheroe yesterday.

Mr Evans spoke of his relief at being cleared of rape, five sexual assaults, one attempted sexual assault and two indecent assaults at Preston Crown Court, and said he is determined to stay on as MP for the Ribble Valley.

When asked of his plans for the future, Mr Evans said: “To get on with the job that I’ve been doing for 22 years.”

The 56-year-old added that he had thrown himself into representing the Ribble Valley since the police knocked on the door of his Pendleton home last year.

Mr Evans added, however, that it wasn’t practical for him to carry on as Deputy Speaker.

“I believe I now have an opportunity to speak on behalf of the Ribble Valley on any issues, but also this particular issue as well, as I’ve now got some experience in this matter and the most effective way of me doing that is from the back benches,” he said.

Mr Evans said if he could press the “rewind button” he would and he clearly wishes that this episode of this life hadn’t happened, but he has to learn from the experience.

He said he had been through the “fires of hell” and it would be a long time before he had a relationship with anybody.

Mr Evans added that he had been “appalled” at being called a “highly functioning alcoholic” during the trial, as he had grown up with an alcoholic father who drank a whole bottle of whisky in an evening.

He said that he knows that alcoholism destroys families.

Mr Evans said he is a social drinker who is president of the Parliamentary Beer Group.

He said that he had received more than 1,000 messages of congratulations and support since the acquittal on Thursday, and thanked the people of Clitheroe and the Ribble Valley for standing with him for the past 11-and-a-half months.

Mr Evans added that he does not want the CPS to pay his legal bill.

“I want to see a change in the system from now on that says when people are alleged to have committed serious sexual offences like this, when they are dragged through the courts, when they are acquitted they should have their reasonable legal costs paid.”

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