MP Nigel Evans says that he does not recognise the “Sexminster” image of late night boozing and inappropriate sexual behaviour in Parliament, recently depicted in a report by Channel 4 News.
On the same day Mr Evans was cleared of all rape and sexual assault charges, last Thursday, Channel 4 News aired an investigation named ‘The Palace of Sexminster’.
In a survey of 70 people from across the political spectrum, the broadcaster said one in three had experienced sexual harassment, and men were more likely to be victims.
Former Stonewall CEO Ben Summerskill was interviewed in the report and said: “Sexual harassment is part of the culture of Westminster. In the last decade I’ve heard of dozens of cases from men and women”.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Evans, who stepped down as deputy speaker of the Commons as a result of his criminal investigation, said: “Politicians are scared witless if they are accused of going through the five items or less with six items in their basket in a supermarket.
“You can only imagine being accused of rape or sexual assault, the sort of sense of despair that you do feel.
He added: “The only worse thing I could have been accused of was murder.”
Asked if he recognised the culture of “Sexminster” depicted by Channel 4 News he said: “It’s certainly not like that, a lot of that [report] was in the can even before the verdict come out and they decided to run it anyway.”
He added: “I believe there is a narrative that has been put out there and people are promoting the narrative and it was completely wrong.”
Mr Evans denied he had a drinking problem. “These headlines that have come forward, there have been times when I’ve had too much to drink – I absolutely do not doubt that,” he said.
“But the headlines that you hear, and indeed the accusations that were put towards you in court sounded as if it was 365 days a year and I’ve got an optic above my bed. These are absolutely ridiculous … Now, I’m a social drinker, that’s all I am.”
The 56-year-old was forced to spend £130,000 on the court case in legal bills to defend himself and despite the not guilty verdicts will be unable to reclaim any of the money.
Mr Evans also called for a fresh look at whether defendants in sex offence cases should get anonymity on the same level as prosecution witnesses.
He said MPs should consider giving anonymity up to the point of charge, trial or even the lifetime protection afforded to complainants.
The government pledged to look at the idea when it came to power but then dropped the plans amid concern about whether it would stop further victims of an alleged sex offender coming forward.
Writing on The Guardian website, columnist Julie Bindel warned against the move. She said: “To grant anonymity in rape cases we are saying that the problem is not with the estimated 75 to 95% that never get reported; the 94% of reports that do not end in a conviction on the charge of rape; or the widespread belief that women out drinking, flirting or just plain breathing ask for all we get.
“The problem, according to the new government, is the fact that a tiny percentage of men accused are innocent. Shame on the government. Let’s campaign to ensure this proposal falls at the first hurdle.”