Regret over having sex is not the basis to convict MP Nigel Evans, a court has been told. Peter Wright QC, in his closing speech for the defence, said the man who claims the former deputy speaker raped him now regretted having sex with him, but this did not make the MP a guilty man.
Evans, 56, is alleged to have sexually abused seven young men on various dates between 2002 and last year by using his "powerful" political influence to take advantage of them, often while drunk. He denies all charges. Wright went through each of the charges one by one, pointing out what he claimed were inconsistencies in the accounts given and questioning the credibility of the evidence against the defendant.
In the most serious charge, rape, Mr Wright said the issue of consent was "central". The complainant, aged 22, told the jury he was raped and sexually assaulted by Evans after a dinner party at the defendant's home in Pendleton, Lancashire, in March last year. But the MP said the sex was consensual.
Wright told the jury: "Regret can't alter what has already taken place." The barrister said the young man had told "deliberate untruths" in the account given to police and to the jury to make himself "more convincing". He pointed to a series of inconsistencies between what he told officers and what he told the jury - there was no pushing on to the bed, no forcible undoing of trousers, no struggle to push his attacker off.
In fact the truth was the young man had consented to have sex with a man more than twice his age, the court heard. Wright added: "In the cold light of day, the complainant may regret what had taken place and how far it had actually gone. But such sentiments are some considerable distance removed from an incident of sexual assault and rape.
"He gave every indication of consent. Now he seeks to turn the clock back. Saving his conscience is not the basis on which to convict a man of rape and sexual assault." In 2003, Evans is alleged to have indecently assaulted two men in their 20s when he approached them in public places while drunk and put his hand down their trousers - one in a Soho bar the other at a hotel during the 2003 Tory Party conference.
Wright said: "We say these earlier alleged incidents did not amount to much then and do not do so now." They showed a "drunken over familiarity" - not what the prosecution "thesis" alleges - the actions of a powerful, "career making and breaking" politician abusing his position.
Wright added: "They are a high watermark of over-friendly, inappropriate behaviour by a drunken man, rather than the ingredients of an indecent assault." He next turned to the allegation of attempted sexual assault by leaning in to kiss a young man, who rebuffed him, in an alleged incident near the Strangers Bar at the House of Commons.
But there were inconsistencies between how the alleged complainant described the incident and what another alleged victim of Evans told police. Wright said: "We say it is telling that the accounts did not tally. The issue here is stark. Are you sure the incident happened in the way he alleges.
"This is an example how it is important, vital, it is fundamental to your approach to the evidence in the case. The prosecution bring the charge - they prove it." Next Wright turned to another allegation of sexual assault made by a young man who told the jury Evans "cupped" his genitals while having a drink at the Strangers Bar in 2010.
Wright said: "A casual indifference percolated his account, to say nothing of the absurdity of what Nigel Evans is alleged to have done in full view of everyone."
Evans' lawyer then addressed the jury concerning the claims made by another young man who said he was assaulted by Evans while sleeping on the sofa at the MP's home in June 2009. Again Wright said there was a "distinct lack of consistency" in his account.
The complainant had made a "casual remark" alleging Evans assaulted him in front of another MP, Dr Sarah Wollaston - which put him in a "quandary".
Wright continued: "After that it gathered a momentum of its own, on which he was carried. He was propelled into a meeting with the Speaker and that this was a police matter."
Later the complainant "embellished" his story and it was "bolstered" by claims of assault made by others - some who, the jury has heard, were friends of his. The final allegation dealt with by Wright was not connected to the others but was also "fundamentally flawed."
In this charge, the complainant alleged he was sexually assaulted by Evans in the House of Commons in March 2011.
But the alleged victim was a man who could not remember if he first contacted the police - or the press, with the claims, Mr Wright told the jury. And he also later invited Evans to functions and a dinner.
Wright asked the jury: "Why would you do that? Why would you invite your abuser? Why would you do that?" The complainant later called the incident a "drunken misunderstanding" and told officers he did not want to pursue the matter. Wright added: "The underlying truth is it didn't happen."
Evans denies two indecent assaults, five counts of sexual assault, one count of attempted sexual assault and one count of rape. The judge is expected to begin summing up the case later today.
Mr Justice King began his summing up of the trial, now in its fifth week, by reminding the jury the defendant is innocent until proven guilty. He said: "The prosecution has the burden of proving the guilt of any defendant. You know the defendant faces some nine counts and he doesn't have to prove his innocence at all and the burden on the prosecution to prove an offence is a high one.
"The prosecution, on any particular count, must satisfy so you are sure of guilt, nothing less will do. I repeat, Mr Evans does not have to prove his innocence." The trial was adjourned until tomorrow morning when the judge will continue his summing up.