How did it ever get to court, Nigel Evans’ supporters ask

The prosecution case against Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans should never have been brought to court according to local supporters.

Conservative party stalwart Joyce Holgate MBE told the Clitheroe Advertiser and Times today (Friday) that the case against the former Commons deputy speaker, who has been acquitted of all the charges against him, should never have been brought.

HONOURED: Joyce Holgate MBE with Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans outside the Houses of Parliament. (s)

HONOURED: Joyce Holgate MBE with Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans outside the Houses of Parliament. (s)

“Obviously I am pleased with the not guilty decision, it should never have been brought about,” said Coun. Holgate.

“Nigel has been an excellent MP and he has served the residents of the Ribble Valley very well and personally always showed me the utmost of respect in the 20 years that I have known him.

“I hope that he can go on and rebuild his life. It has been a very difficult time for him.”

The oldest member of Ribble Valley Borough Council, Coun. Holgate, who is one of the ward councillors for Whalley, has known Mr Evans for her entire political career spanning 18 years.

Mr Evans took her on a tour of the House of Commons and for lunch at the speaker’s office when she was presented with her MBE in January 2012.

Clitheroe Town Mayor, Coun. Kevin Horkin, who is a close friend of Mr Evans, agreed with Coun. Holgate’s sentiments wholeheartedly that the case against Mr Evans should have never reached the courts.

Speaking to the Clitheroe Advertiser today (Friday) from the Clitheroe Town Mayor’s parlour, Coun. Horkin said: “It certainly is great news, over the last five weeks I’ve sat everyday in court and what I think came very apparent in the first week of the trial, that the evidence once it was scrutinised it was very flimsy, it was very weak and clearly everyone’s delighted because we didn’t think for one minute he was guilty of the kind of accounts that had been put before him.

He added: “But like with everything, I suppose there’s lessons to be learnt you know from every situation, I think on the steps of the court yesterday, I think he was quite right in saying ‘there’s no celebration in any of this’ because it really is a situation that never should have come to court, I certainly don’t believe it ever should have come to court.”

When asked about Mr Evans’ current state of mind, Coun. Horkin said: “Well as you can imagine, 11 months has now passed from that first knock on the door and everything else that literally turned his life upside down. He’s in a good place, he’s reflective and clearly through the next few days he will get a sense of balance as to where and what he should do next.”

The Ribble Valley MP was found not guilty of all nine counts yesterday (Thursday) following a five-week trial at Preston crown court, where he was accused of abusing his power to attack young Commons workers between 2003 and March last year.

Other friends and supporters who have expressed their delight at the verdict include Stuart Hirst, leader of Ribble Valley Borough Council.

He said: “I am delighted with the verdict and that Nigel has been cleared of all charges.

“This has been an utter nightmare for him but he has had unwavering support from me and all other Conservative colleagues on the Borough Council and we are delighted that justice has been done.”

Ribble Valley Borough Councillor Michael Ranson, who is chairman of the Ribble Valley Conservative Association, said: “We are delighted that the jury has returned a not guilty verdict on all the charges that were brought against Nigel.

“The last 12 months have been very difficult for Nigel, his family and the Ribble Valley Conservative Association. “Nigel has always assured us that he was innocent of the charges and we are delighted that the court has found in

his favour.”