Bercow: ‘I wanted to ensure the police were informed’
Commons Speaker John Bercow MP said he “wanted to ensure the police were informed” after sex abuse allegations concerning his deputy were passed to him, a court heard.
Mr Bercow met with one complainant, a Westminster worker, who told him Nigel Evans had placed his hand in his boxer shorts while he was asleep at the Ribble Valley MP’s home in 2009.
Last April’s meeting in the Speaker’s study was set up Tory MP Dr Sarah Wollaston after the complainant confided in her the month before.
A second alleged victim told Dr Wollaston that he had been raped by Evans at his Lancashire home last year.
The court heard Mr Bercow agreed “in principle” to also meet the rape complainant but that was cancelled following legal advice - partly because it was said to have taken place outside the parliamentary estate.
In a witness statement read out at Evans’s trial at Preston Crown Court, Mr Bercow said he was contacted by Dr Wollaston, the MP for Totnes, who wished to see him on a matter of “some urgency”.
Later in the evening he was told by Dr Wollaston at the meeting that it had been brought to her attention that two people had said they were raped and sexually assaulted by Evans.
The complainant who alleged sexual assault was then brought into the room and Mr Bercow said he recognised the man.
After he gave his account, the Speaker told him the matter was “serious” and he thanked him for coming.
He informed him that “it was for him to decide if he wanted to make a formal complaint to the police”.
Mr Bercow noted the alleged incident was said to have happened four years previously and asked him what triggered him coming forward now.
He was told by the complainant that a discussion with Dr Wollaston about sexual violence led to the revelation.
Mr Bercow said: “He volunteered he had been a victim of this at the hands of a MP.”
The Speaker was then informed by Dr Wollaston of the nature of the rape complaint, although the name of the alleged victim was not disclosed.
A meeting with the rape complainant and the Speaker was pencilled in for the following week.
In his statement, Mr Bercow said: “I did not want to turn a blind eye which would be irresponsible but I needed to reflect on the matter and wanted to seek legal advice.”
That advice from the Speaker’s Counsel Michael Carpenter was not to meet with the rape complainant.
The Speaker’s secretary informed Dr Wollaston of the decision that the Speaker “cannot handle this”.
Dr Wollaston was asked to encourage the alleged victims to come forward and make a complaint as the allegations became a police matter.
Mr Bercow said: “I wanted to ensure the police were informed.”
Earlier in describing his job the Speaker said his role in the House of Commons chamber was akin to being “a referee of a football match”.
Yesterday, Dr Wollaston told the court of her “frustration” that Mr Bercow could not personally meet the rape complainant.