Former UK parliament speaker cleared of sex assaults

Former UK parliament speaker cleared of sex assaults
British Conservative MP and former Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons, Nigel Evans.

LONDON - The former deputy speaker of Britain's House of Commons was cleared on Thursday of charges of sexually assaulting seven young men.

Nigel Evans, 56, had been accused of using his "powerful" political influence to take advantage of the men.

But a jury at Preston Crown Court in northwest England found Evans not guilty of one count of rape, five sexual assaults, one attempted sexual assault and two indecent assaults.

The rape complainant, aged 22, had told the court he was raped and sexually assaulted by Evans after a dinner party at the defendant's home in March last year, but the openly gay lawmaker said the sex was consensual.

Peter Wright, Evans's defence lawyer, suggested the complainant had fabricated his evidence because he regretted having sex with a man more than twice his age.

Evans's defence team also pointed out inconsistencies in witness accounts and questioned the credibility of several of the accounts of alleged assaults.

As Evans was cleared, his supporters in court let out a gasp of relief and some burst into tears.

Told by the judge that he could leave the dock, Evans bowed to the jury and said: "Thank you." Evans resigned as deputy Commons speaker when he was charged in September last year.

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