CPS defends Evans case handling
The Crown Prosecution Service has defended its handling of the Nigel Evans case in the wake of intense criticism from MPs.
Conservatives branded the prosecution "artificial" and called for the Attorney General to launch an urgent review of CPS practices after the former Commons deputy speaker was cleared of committing nine sexual offences against seven young men.
But prosecutors stood by the decision to take the case to court, insisting it was "right" that the evidence was put to a jury.
"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," a CPS spokesman said.
"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."
Former shadow home secretary David Davis called for the practice of using lesser charges to "reinforce" a more serious one to be looked at.
He 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."
Conservative former prisons minister Crispin Blunt said the prosecution had been "artificial" and the verdict had not come as the "slightest surprise".
He told Sky News: "There are no winners in this process, only victims; and that's why I do think the CPS should examine their procedures and the way this prosecution was conducted because the whole process hasn't helped anybody and the verdict has not come as the slightest surprise to me."
Asked if he believed the CPS has been over-zealous, he replied: "Yes, I'm afraid I do. If you look at how the case was constructed against Nigel, a lot of the complainants, well, they weren't complainants, they did not regard themselves as victims and they didn't actually want to be in court.
"So, this, to a degree, was quite an artificial prosecution."
Conservative MP Peter Bone said police and prosecutors faced "serious questions" over their handling of the case.
"Good day for Nigel Evans but why was he charged in the first place?" he tweeted. "Serious questions for the police and CPS to answer! So pleased for Nigel."
Fellow Tory Alun Cairns said the aquittal, coming on the back of not-guilty verdicts in cases involving Coronation Street actors Michael Le Vell and William Roache, meant the CPS had concerns to address.
"Surely prosecutors have questions to answer in Nigel Evans case, after Roach(e) & Le Vell," he wrote.
Downing Street said David Cameron had "confidence" in the work of the CPS.
At a regular briefing in Westminster, the Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "He does have confidence in the CPS."
The spokesman added: "Decisions around prosecutions are a matter for the CPS."