Tory Vice Chair: Sexual assault allegations against Nigel Evans were ‘out of character’
Conservative Party Vice Chairman Michael Fabricant has described sexual assault allegations against MP Nigel Evans as “out of character”.
The BBC reports Mr Fabricant was among several MPs to evidence in the trial of Mr Evans at Preston Crown Court today.
Mr Fabricant, MP for Lichfield in Staffordshire, was asked about allegations that Nigel Evans had sexually assaulted a young man in 2009.
Mr Fabricant, who was a senior Conservative whip in 2009, said he was working on the Norwich North by-election when he first heard of the allegation against his “good friend”.
He told the court that Adam Price, a Plaid Cymru MP at the time, had spoken to the complainant and called Mr Fabricant to tell him about the alleged assault.
Mr Fabricant told the jury: “I remember fairly well what he said, mainly because it seemed to me out of character for the Nigel Evans I knew. That’s why I remember that conversation.”
Mark Heywood QC, prosecuting, asked Mr Fabricant: “What was being sought?”
The MP for Lichfield replied: “Mainly action of some sort and some advice.”
He said he called the opposition whips office at the House of Commons and spoke to Conservative MP John Randall.
The jury was told Mr Fabricant could not remember a telephone conversation with the complainant, although records suggested a call took place.
The MP said part of the whips’ job was the “pastoral care” of MPs.
“I believe that’s one of the more important roles of the whips and intelligence gathering. It’s not like House of Cards, if you have seen that programme,” he said.
The jury learned that the complainant also spoke to Iain Corby, managing director of Policy Research Unit, a Conservative research group.
He said the complainant did not go into “explicit detail”, saying only that Mr Evans had “tried to get under the covers” with him as he slept on the settee in the MPs home in Pendleton, Lancashire.
He said he may have taken a “different view” if he had been told that Mr Evans had placed a hand inside the man’s underwear.
Mr Corby added: “I hope I would have persuaded him that it should be taken to the police.”
The London Evening Standard reports the allegation was discussed in a meeting with Patrick McLoughlin, chief whip at the time, the witness claimed.
But Mr McLoughlin, who is now the Transport Secretary, said he understood the matter to be a “misunderstanding” not a sexual assault, the jury heard, when told about the incident in July, 2009.
Mr McLoughlin told the jury: “Nigel had been drinking and said an incident had taken place. I don’t remember him going into exact details of what the incident was, although he may have done.
“I asked him what he wanted and he said that he wanted Nigel to not stand at the next general election.
“I remember saying that was a really big ask considering what he had said to me but we need to see where things went.
“He did seem to change his mind at some stage, he wanted Nigel to apologise and he would regard that as sufficient.”
Mr McLoughlin, the MP for Derbyshire Dales, said he next spoke to Evans about what had gone on.
“I think Nigel said things had got out of hand and he was apologetic for that.
“I remember saying to Nigel ‘you have got to be careful about how much you drink, you have got to watch your drinking habit’.”
Mr McLoughlin continued: “I recall saying to Nigel, I think you should make a public statement about being gay, but that was a matter for Nigel to take himself.”
Mr Evans came out as gay in December 2010.
Mr McLoughlin stressed he told the young man if he wanted to take the matter further with the police he was free to do so but that was a matter for him.
Peter Wright QC, defending Mr Evans, asked the witness about the complainant saying the MP should stand down.
Mr McLoughlin said: “He was asking him to give up his entire parliamentary career on what I could see was a misunderstanding.
“I thought that was a huge demand given the nature of the complaint.”
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Mr McLoughlin said he had not been told the allegation against Mr Evans was that he had groped the young man’s penis.
The MP added: “I made it very clear if he wanted to take it further he should talk to the police about it, not expect me to deal with that side of the matter.”
Mr Evans denies two counts of indecent assault, six of sexual assault and one of rape.
The trial continues.
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