Evans’ anger must not blight sex cases work

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Nigel Evans is one angry man and I think I would be if I was in his shoes.

Over the past 11 or so months, his world has been turned upside down after life-changing allegations were levelled at him. As we now all know, he has been cleared of numerous serious charges, including rape and sexual assault, by a Preston jury and today is an innocent man.

But until Thursday he felt like anything but. During the lengthy trial, every character flaw, as well as seemingly every alcoholic drink he had downed in Westminster bars was pored over as prosecutors sought to convince jurors the former Speaker of the House of Commons was a sexual predator who used his not inconsiderable power and influence to have his wicked way with frightened young men.

Those who watched the trial had predicted long before its end that Ribble Valley’s well-respected MP would walk away from court a free man as the case against him seemed flimsy. Some concurred with Evans’ own analysis: that he was victim of a modern-day Lancashire witch hunt.

Although free to resume his life, the MP says the ordeal has left him emotionally scarred and has cost him his life savings, having had to pay £130,000 in legal costs. Now he is using his public profile in an attempt to right some perceived imbalances in the justice system.

He believes the whole question of anonymity should be looked at. People accused are not entitled to anonymity while their accusers are.

This should not change, despite how damaging this may be for innocent men such as Mr Evans or Coronation Street star Bill Roache. In large, the public accepts the final decision of a court, and eventually the stigma that any unsuccessful prosecution may have created lessens.

But for every high profile acquittal, there are cases such as the one of shamed broadcaster Stuart Hall, which proves that defendants must be named. Without the publicity, other victims would not have stepped forward and who knows what would have happened in court.

Evans complains of the “zealotry” of the police who built a case against him and is understandably aggrieved that the case was ever brought. He has a point – this is the third high profile acquittal in the North West of well known men accused of sex crimes, the others being Roache and fellow Corrie actor Michael Le Vell.

Questions must be asked of those who allowed these cases to get to court because they could have a damaging long-term effect. If the publicity surrounding the terrible crimes of Jimmy Savile prompted more sex abuse victims to come forward, will these three cases undo that good work?