UK Politics

Nigel Evans quits as deputy speaker amid sex charges

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Media captionNigel Evans: "I will robustly defend my innocence"

MP Nigel Evans has resigned as Commons Deputy Speaker, after being charged with offences including sexual assault, indecent assault and rape against seven men.

Mr Evans is accused of eight offences in total dating between 2002 and 2013, the Crown Prosecution Service said.

The 55-year-old MP for Ribble Valley denies any wrongdoing and pledged to continue to represent his constituents from the backbenches.

He said the claims were "incredulous".

'Continue to work'

In a statement to reporters after being charged, he said: "May I reassure everyone at this time that I will robustly defend my innocence.

"I have today answered bail following complaints I have said were incredulous.

"Whilst I am saddened that this case has not been closed today, I am certain of two things: firstly that I am innocent, and secondly that my innocence will be demonstrated.

"Having informed my fellow deputy Speakers Lindsay Hoyle and Dawn Primarolo, my association chairman and staff, I can confirm I will now resign as deputy speaker.

"However, I will continue to work hard for the people of Ribble Valley from the backbenches where I first started my political career in 1992."

'Media interest'

He pledged to do his best to tackle local problems such as the "crisis of extra house-building" and cuts to rural bus services.

Mr Evans finished: "I appreciate that this case will create a great deal of media interest, but after today I will not be making any further comment until after the case concludes."

Mr Evans was a Conservative MP before becoming deputy speaker, a politically neutral role, but he has not sought to return to the Conservative fold in the Commons and will sit as an independent backbencher, Tory sources said.

The director of public prosecutions for England and Wales said the decision to charge Mr Evans had been taken after careful consideration.

Keir Starmer added: "We have concluded that there is sufficient evidence and that it is in the public interest to prosecute.

"Lancashire Constabulary has therefore been authorised to charge two counts of indecent assault, five counts of sexual assault and one count of rape relating to a total of seven alleged victims."

Mr Evans is expected to appear before Preston Magistrates' Court on 18 September.

The two indecent assaults are alleged to have been committed between 1 January 2002 and 1 January 2004, the five sexual assaults allegedly happened between 1 January 2009 and 1 April 2013, and the alleged rape between 29 March and 1 April 2013.

Mr Evans, from Pendleton in Lancashire, answered bail on Tuesday having previously been arrested in May and June.

He was re-arrested and interviewed by detectives throughout the day before being charged in the evening.

In May, Mr Evans dismissed the original allegations against him as "completely false", and said they had been made by two people he had "regarded as friends".

He was elected as one of three Commons deputy Speakers in 2010.

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