As news broke of the outcome of the Court Case in Preston Crown Court on Thursday, a string of MPs found themselves near microphones giving interviews about how badly Mr Evans had been treated by the system which they between them had created and which is wholly answerable to them. The good news that Mr Evans has been cleared and is able to return to his place of work (a privilege denied to many with less forgiving working arrangements) has generated anger from many in positions of power at the temerity of the Police and the Crown Prosecution Service for treating such tenuous and historic claims as being worthy of a trial at all. The latest interview given by Mr Evans suggests that he would like the CPS to repay his trial expenses, and points out that this trial has cost him the additional £30,000 per year he had been earning for his duties as deputy speaker. He has overlooked the fact that for many men or women, a trial like this would have cost them their jobs. Mr Evans has continued to be paid over £60,000 a year by the State whilst he was undergoing what must be a terrible ordeal for anyone falsely accused in this way.
The BBC report of Mr Evans interview with the Mail on Sunday includes the suggestion that people who were “dragged through the courts through no fault of their own” and then found not guilty should “get their legal fees back from the CPS budget”. “Maybe that will make them focus on whether a case is worth pursuing,” he said. In reality the laws which Mr Evans and his colleagues have drawn up previously, most recently through the “Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012” makes it clear that innocent defendants are only entitled to reimbursement up to certain very modest limits which appear now to Nigel Evans as being far too low. The section on the MOJ website is here. The fact that these limits are so modest should be no surprise to any of the MPs currently sitting in Westminster including Nigel Evans MP who Chaired some of the debates in the House of Commons. Mr Evans must also know that the cost to the State of a Court case is already huge and that the CPS is acutely aware of the need to balance the prospect of a conviction with the cost of running court cases that are not successful. There are many occasions when those of us outside the system feel the CPS is far too timid, when evidence appears strong enough for a trial and yet decisions not to prosecute are made. In reality our Criminal Justice System has been starved of funds by successive Governments. Mr Evans also suggested that he had been “shocked” by the “zealotry” of the Police in pursuing the investigation. Yet it is clear from the relatively small number of cases involving Rape and Sexual Assault that do come before our Courts that for many people, at times the Police are not as forthright as they could be when dealing with such matters.
There are some real challenges in this case. For Mr Evans to stand up as an individual and claim he has been badly treated is of course a different matter to his ability to speak as a legislator or law maker and promise all sorts of future changes that he would like to see. Let alone the extent to which the outcome has led to a chorus of MPs and ex-MPs who have used their positions of influence to speak out about this case as though it needs to become a turning point for the way in which Justice is carried out in this country. The angry voices of legislators and retired legislators speaking up in support of Mr Evans that have largely been silent whilst many others have suffered similar experience suggests a rather strange set of values for people who are meant to be at work to represent constituents, not colleagues. Couple this disparity with what is now emerging from the House of Commons as stories of a seedy and murky world protected from the public gaze by Parliaments own security arrangements and the impact on ordinary people who can be bothered to listen is yet more damage to the institutions of democracy in the United Kingdom. We know that the Houses of Parliament are often out of touch with the lives of ordinary men and women in this country. However this trial and the reaction to it by Mr Evans and his colleagues, let alone the context in which the accusations of behaviour were set simply reinforce how unsuited many of the MPs and Lords really are to set laws and sit in judgement on the behaviour and activities of others.