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Lancashire police defend decision to take Evans to court

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Lancashire Police and the Crown Prosecution Service have defended their decision to prosecute MP Nigel Evans, amid calls for a review into the way historic sex cases are brought to court.

Preston North and Wyre MP Ben Wallace hit out on Twitter: “When a local MP is tried on what turns out to be laughable evidence, then there are serious questions to be asked of the CPS and the police.”

Fellow Conservative MP Peter Bone added police and prosecutors faced “serious questions” over their handling of the case.

Speaking outside court, Det Supt Ian Critchley, the force’s head of public protection, said: “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.

“While these allegations were made against a public figure, we have been committed throughout to investigating this matter in the same professional 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 CPS 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 there was sufficient evidence to justify a realistic prospect of conviction.”

But David Davis MP welcomed the jury’s decision to acquit Mr Evans of rape and other sexual offence charges, and has called for reform of how sexual offences are prosecuted.

Mr Davis said: “This case has highlighted serious concerns over how the police and the Crown Prosecution Service bring sexual offence cases to court. In particular we must now review the process whereby the police and the Crown Prosecution Service put together a large number of lesser, subsidiary cases in order to reinforce one serious case when prosecuting sexual offences.

“It is clear from the way that this case proceeded that there is a risk of a serious injustice being done to an innocent man, and I would call on the Attorney General to urgently review this issue.”

A CPS spokesman said: “The complainants in this case provided clear accounts of the alleged offending and it was right that all of the evidence was put before a jury. That evidence could only be fully explored during a trial and the jury has decided, after hearing all of the evidence, that the prosecution has not proved its case beyond reasonable doubt. We respect this decision.”

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