POLITICS

Nigel Evans Contests All 'Sexual Assault' Charges Against Him

24/01/2014 14:55 GMT | Updated 24/01/2014 14:59 GMT
Christopher Furlong via Getty Images
PRESTON, LANCASHIRE - JANUARY 24: Former Deputy Speaker Nigel Evans arrives at Preston Crown Court for a a pre-trial hearing to face charges of sexual assault on January 24, 2014 in Preston, Lancashire. Mr Evans resigned from his position as the House of Commons deputy speaker last year. The MP for Ribble Valley has been charged with two counts of indecent assault, five of sexual assault, and one of rape against seven alleged male victims. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Nigel Evans, the former deputy speaker of the House of Commons, has denied in court allegations of sexual offences against seven men.

Evans, the MP for Ribble Valley in Lancashire, entered formal not guilty pleas to all charges during a pre-trial hearing at Preston Crown Court.

The 56-year-old stood in the dock, hands clasped at his front, to repeat "not guilty" as each charge was put to him.

An extra count of sexual assault was added to the indictment, making nine charges in all.

He denies two counts of indecent assault, six of sexual assault and one of rape. The charges date from 2002 to April 1, last year.

Evans resigned as Commons deputy speaker after he was charged on September 10.

Reporting restrictions were not lifted and most of the 10 minute hearing was taken up by legal matters in preparation for the forthcoming trial.

Mark Heywood QC, prosecuting, asked the judge for the ninth, new count to be added to the charges and this was not opposed by Richard Bennett, defending.

The judge, Mr Justice King, reminded the press none of the seven complainants, all adult males, must be publicly identified in their reports.

Evans was granted bail by the judge until his trial date, which has been set for March 10.

"Thank you, my lord," he replied.

The indecent assaults are alleged to have been committed between January 1 2002 and January 1 2004; the sexual assaults - said to be touching without consent - between January 1 2009 and April 1 last year; and the rape between March 29 and April 1 last year.

Evans made a personal statement in the House the day after he was charged, claiming that facing the allegations was as hard as dealing with the deaths of his mother and brother in the past few years.

The Swansea-born MP, who lives in Pendleton, Lancashire, was one of three deputy speakers elected in a secret ballot of MPs in 2010.

Evans was a vice-chairman of the Conservative Party from 1999 to 2001.

As deputy speaker, he sat as an independent MP but he will not take the Conservative whip and will sit as an independent MP for his constituency.