UK Politics

Nigel Evans case: MP Sarah Wollaston 'offered to resign'

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Media captionSarah Wollaston talks to the BBC: "I did not report this case to the police"

A Tory MP has denied pressuring two men who made sexual assault allegations against former deputy speaker Nigel Evans into going to the police.

Sarah Wollaston initially raised the claims with parliamentary authorities and a criminal prosecution followed.

After he was cleared of all charges, Mr Evans said Mrs Wollaston had "pursued the issue" and "had it in for him".

Mrs Wollaston told the BBC the men had since told her they were not pressured - otherwise she would have resigned.

'Duty of care'

She told Newsnight: "I have offered to them that I would step down as an MP if they felt I had pressured them into making an allegation [to the police]. They have both been very clear with me subsequently that they did not feel pressured."

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Image caption Nigel Evans denied all the charges against him

The former deputy Commons Speaker was accused of one count of rape, five sexual assaults, one attempted sexual assault and two indecent assaults, but the jury unanimously found Mr Evans not guilty.

In an interview with the Mail on Sunday after being cleared Mr Evans said: "It was mentioned to her [Sarah Wollaston] as a throwaway remark yet she pursued it. For whatever reason, she decided to have it in for me.

"I don't know why anyone would want to do that."

But Mrs Wollaston insisted she had done everything she could to find an internal disciplinary procedure.

Mrs Wollaston, a qualified GP who had previously worked as a police forensic examiner, had referred claims of sexual assault and rape against Mr Evans by the men to Commons Speaker John Bercow, who agreed to meet the complainants but decided it was a matter for the police.

She said she had discussed with them "what the risks were of going down this route", including the "very low conviction rates" associated with sex abuse cases.

Although she had also raised their "duty of care to others", she said, "the decision to report this kind of thing has to come from individuals without outside pressure".

"This was the first time that anyone had come to me to say: 'This has happened to me,'" Dr Wollaston continued.

"But it is widely discussed within Parliament, the sense that staff feel a grievance that there's nobody they can go to when things happen to them that they feel uncomfortable with.

"There are issues to do with professional boundaries in Westminster."

'Rank hypocrisy'

And in an article for the Daily Telegraph, Mrs Wollaston wrote: "Since the jury delivered its verdict, a backlash has begun.

"The police have been criticised for their investigation, and the Crown Prosecution Service for its decision to put the evidence before a jury.

"As for me, was I right to listen to the complainants and pass on their allegations?"

She noted that the Commons Health Committee, of which she is a member, had recently concluded that "doctors ought to be struck off if they looked the other way and failed to report serious allegations about colleagues".

Mrs Wollaston argued: "It would have been rank hypocrisy to demand that standard from my fellow doctors, while failing to be prepared to do so myself.

"But I have been truly shocked by the rank hostility since Mr Evans's acquittal, from those who seriously feel I should have done nothing."

Although Mrs Wollaston said she did not question the verdict in Mr Evans' case, she referred to a Channel 4 News' investigation which claimed that sexual harassment was "part of the fabric" of Parliament,

She concluded: "The people who truly have questions to answer are those who have for so long turned a blind eye to the reports of such harassment."

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