Even before Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans was acquitted on the nine charges of sexual abuse facing him, questions were being asked about whether the case should have gone to court.
Much of the prosecution evidence - particularly relating to the key charge of rape - seemed vague, weak and inconsistent, and several of the alleged victims in the other sexual assault charges told the court even they did not consider what had happened to constitute a criminal offence.
Detective Superintendet Ian Critchley, Lancashire Constabulary’s Senior Investigating Officer in the case and Head of Public Protection, emerged from court shortly after Mr Evans and gave the following statement to reporters waiting there:
“Firstly let me say that I entirely respect the verdicts reached by the jury today and I thank them for considering these matters so carefully.
“I would like to particularly thank the complainants and many witnesses that have provided evidence to the court; I know it has been difficult and challenging for many of them to do so given the circumstances that have been investigated.
Whenever anyone takes the brave step to come forward to the police, or provides evidence to such an investigation making serious allegations of a sexual nature, it is absolutely right that we carry out a professional investigation into all such reports.
“The personal impact on an individual and their families of sexual abuse as we know is significant. It cannot have been easy for those who have done so to provide evidence to the investigation and court proceedings. We have recognised and considered the views and needs of the complainants throughout this case whilst ensuring we provide support to them and the witnesses through what has no doubt been a very difficult and challenging ordeal
“While these allegations were made against a public figure, we have been committed throughout to investigating this matter in the same professional and victim-focussed way that we would all such allegations. We also recognise the personal impact such proceedings have on Mr Evans and have sought throughout to ensure the investigation is conducted in a fair, professional and proportionate way.
“We have worked closely with the Crown Prosecution Service from an early stage, and all of the evidence was subjected to careful scrutiny before a decision was taken to charge, particularly where complainants did not see themselves as victims. Only after that very careful consideration was the decision made to put this before a jury in the belief that there was sufficient evidence to justify a realistic prospect of conviction.
“The jury has had an opportunity over the course of the trial to hear and fully consider the evidence presented by both the prosecution and the defence. The burden of proof in our system is quite rightly high and once again I thank the jury for giving this case their full consideration.
“Lancashire Constabulary remains committed to investigating allegations of this nature, no matter how historic, and no matter what the role, position and status of the alleged offender, and we would encourage anyone who has been a victim of a sexual offence to come forward safe in the knowledge that they will be treated sensitively and professionally.”