Losing Everything – Really Mr Evans…???

Nigel Evans made interesting reading at the weekend following his acquittal of all charges. The MP (Apparently this stands for Member of Parliament and not to be confused with Maybe Prosecuted) for Ribble Valley has spoken out about losing every penny and the witch-hunt of “high profile” people. Well, Mr Evans, as a “low profile” woman here is my view. I shall not be highlighting the point that as Deputy Speaker, you were fully aware of the changes to the system whereby one cannot claim costs back. You know the one, October 1st 2012, one of LASPO changes. Nope, I will not highlight this point. Anyway onwards…

Mr Evans has lost every penny he had. £130,000. That is a lot of pennies. Calls for changes to the system whereby those found not guilty of charges brought should be entitled to a refund of the costs paid to defend allegations. You know the one – Mr Evans as deputy speaker you surely heard it. Your party brought the bloody thing in. Mr Evans did not come under the threshold of £37K- in order to qualify for legal aid. That test means as a laywoman “You can afford to pay for your own legal representation” (I am a lay woman. I do woman-speak)

Whether or not the case should have been prosecuted I do not claim to know a jot about. I am aware the CPS look at if, the case is in the public interest and, they believe they have a strong possibility of a conviction. I have no truck mucking around with that one.

I can however, look at Mr Evans’ and his “losing every penny” he has in order to defend the allegations laid before him in a court of law. He has been found Not Guilty and to my mind, justice has been done. That is the whole basis of law. Charges were brought, as a member of our society, Mr Evans had to answer the charges laid before him. He did. A jury of his peers found him Not Guilty. That is justice.

I have a pragmatic view here and I have shared this on Twitter. I was interviewed under caution knowing full well the allegation was untrue. The person making the allegation knew it was untrue. I knew in my heart of hearts it was untrue, I “no commented” I have had a few responses to my comment in this area and as we Brits do all that “stiff upper lip” stuff, many use the “If I have nothing to hide and I tell the truth, all will be well” That’s great if you’re dealing with loved ones but when it comes to being interviewed under caution and yes, it is on tape, I see a whole different side to this. Because, I have seen the transcription from tape to paper and it is that paper that goes to the CPS. The transcripts of my recorded interview made me look like a 19-year old thug who could not care less. Hence why I reserved my right as a British Citizen to “no comment” It is very difficult to transcribe “no comment” to “I am not sure where I was on the day in question” or “I was in bed asleep, alone” The charges I was guilty of, happily co-operated and we know what went on there. (I did lose everything – I was not sitting on a beautifully upholstered sofa with the finest bone china holding my tea talking to a Daily Mail reporter about how I had lost everything) I also raised an eyebrow at the reporter’s comment “It all started on 4th May last year when Mr Evans was in bed with his friend” If that’s not satire waiting to happen, I don’t know what is…

Public opinion is divided on the Nigel Evans case. Not guilty does not equate innocence, say some. Actually it does if we take the “innocent until proven guilty” mantra that is now loosely forgotten with our press. In the eyes of the law and let us look at the statement again. “Innocent until Proven Guilty Until the day of conviction, every person who walks into a court room (those who have pleaded guilty aside) is innocent. So, to pay £130,000 to defend that innocence is a hefty price. Mr Evans – I do agree with you. That is a large chunk of cash to have to spend. I am with you on that one. (Not that I have seen £130K and nor am I likely to)

Now Mr Evans is calling for a u-turn on the no costs refund thingy… As he believes this is damaging for high-profile people.

Hello…. small peasant here. What about those low profile people? You know, the majority who have no choice but to use legal aid? My close friend could afford to opt out of legally aided representation and pay privately when a member of her family was falsely accused (trial withdrawn) of many counts of sexual offences. Her husband and her have managed to hold on to their home but well, they have spent some time looking at which direct debits to cancel as they are a few thou adrift. That is one side – had my false allegation and the pressure at the time from my legal aid representation to plead guilty (true) I would now be able to talk about my own prison experience instead of writing about others.

You did not lose everything Mr Evans – you have returned to your job, you have your home and you have support from your party and your constituents. I do not doubt your trauma in being dragged through the Criminal Justice System. It is not a pleasant place to be.

Your battle as an MP and one that is on my geographical radar as in ten minutes over Pendle Hill, should be for those on the ground. Those who are now deprived of legal aid – women who are subjected to domestic abuse and are sent away until there is “evidence” That is almost like saying “go away and get beaten up or raped some more, then come back and we will see if you qualify” Women who are at risk of losing their children in Family Law. Your battle should not be for the “high profile” people. Your battle should be for those who are in dire need of a voice in Parliament who actually does care.

Credibility is what you have lost and that can be regained with the right approach. We might at times be harsh, we the British public, but there are times we do know that some things are worth forgiving. You have an opportunity to make a difference to the public and the injustices within the justice system due to your experiences. I would not blow it if I were you.

4 comments

  1. Another thought-provoking article, Tracey. It really is difficult to know where to start in relation to this issue – so I’ll start with a declaration of interest.

    On a personal level, from what I know about Nigel Evans, I am really not a huge fan. He has a number of things counting against him, in my view. First of all, he is an MP, which generally lowers anyone’s credibility significantly in my eyes. Secondly, I don’t really understand anyone who feels that pushing their hand down someone’s trousers in any circumstance outside a private context -and only then with consent- is an acceptable thing to do. Drunken horseplay? I’ve been in plenty of situations, including those where considerable drink has been consumed, and I have neither felt the need to slide my hand into anyone else’s trousers, nor has anyone ever tried it on with me that way. Indeed, if they had done so, I would probably have been the defendant in the ensuing proceedings, and the other party would have had a dental bill approaching £130,000 – and I am not a violent individual! I accept this is not a morality contest, but (as I said) Mr Evans is an MP and the gloves are off.

    The irony of his plight should not be lost on anyone. Like most of his Tory chums I suspect until recent times he will have been perfectly happy to have seen the slash and burn approach continue until Doomsday in relation to every aspect of public spending, including the one which has left him footing a legal bill. Indeed, I believe he has recently said that had he been on the backbenches and able to vote, he would have supported the measure that he now complains about. I therefore raise his rating in my eyes by a percentage point or two, for his honesty about that.

    Do I think it is unjust in principle that someone who the state accuses of a crime is then left potentially facing financial ruin when that same state fail to persuade twelve jurors beyond a reasonable doubt of his/her guilt? Of course. But when you stand back and look at what passes for the ‘criminal justice system’, it is obvious that the whole thing is fundamentally unfit for purpose for more reasons than you can shake a big stick at. The problem is that when you are on the inside, (be it within the legal profession in its broadest sense, a legislator, or a ‘customer’ etc) it is very difficult to see how diseased it is. It creaks on because the only people who could possibly change it are locked into those groups I have just mentioned. If you are Joe Public, you usually couldn’t care too much about it because you aren’t affected directly by it (as you see it), beyond regurgitating the old cliches about ‘life meaning life’, ‘hang ’em all’ etc down at the local over a pint.

    It’s another area where I feel I could write a book. Again, the problem would be knowing where to start. In any sane world, if ‘the state’ wish to take the step of prosecuting someone, with all that means and might possibly mean, then that same state should ensure that a person who has been forced to spend money defending himself against any accusation should, at the very least, not be out of pocket if it has failed to do so. Every prosecution carries a risk, and of course the CPS have criteria and standards by which to judge whether that risk is acceptable to the state and the people who fund it (ie the public it is acting on behalf of). I suppose you could make a good argument for saying that if the state is ‘losing’ a high percentage of cases, maybe it needs to re-think the criteria and implement a higher standard. And, of course, the state can always discontinue a prosecution at any stage if it feels that standard can no longer be reached (eg because further evidence has been obtained etc). At least it would spare some poor sod from going through the trial process unnecessarily.

    But go down any avenue you want, and two things scream at you (and any lawyer who wishes to take issue with this, go ahead). Firstly, money is now driving almost everything in the criminal justice system. Secondly, there are just too many criminal offences in this country. Over 10,000, as I have commented before. You want more offences, you need more money, to investigate them properly, to assess them continually, prosecute them and, crucially, defend them. Unless, of course, you are going to remove legal aid; in which case you are, I suggest, going to get (a) more miscarriages of justice and (b) more farcical outcomes like the one Evans is facing, What you now have is a complex system of thousands and thousands of laws, many of them so complex not even trained minds truly understand them, and a criminal justice system which is neither adequately funded to keep up to the task or fit for purpose.

    What I know will happen here is what happens all the time, in most areas of life. People will be focussing on one issue at a time, trying to deal with it. It is like going to an art gallery, standing in front of a brilliant painting and pressing your nose right up against it. You will see something; a flash of colour perhaps. But in order to take in the full extent of what you are looking at, you need to stand back a far enough distance to get objective. Sadly, MPs, lawyers, judges, probation officers, and most people who make a living from this system can’t, or won’t do it; primarily because it is not in their interest to do it.

    Until, of course, a ‘high profile’ MP is caught with his hand down somebody’s trousers and feels the full force of the farce personally.

  2. Mark – I’d write your book and quick – because as sure as eggs are eggs, give it three months and Mr Evans should have one out. Seems the done thing. Get in the CJS, go to prison as some do, if you’re a “low-profile” person, you might get a Channel 4 documentary or if as Mr Evans insists on calling himself, high-profile, you get to write a book.

    Speaking of former Maybe Prosecuteds (I did actually plagiarise this euphemism) Mr Aitken has sent a message via an author today thanking me for “hitting the nail on the head” on a book review I did for a former prisoner.

    Anyway back to our Mr Evans and the CJS.

    What a palava – as a lay-woman I want to laugh. I see many campaigns, many arguments and virtual fisty cuffs over the matter.

    Frankly, as far as I am concerned and some organic sleuthing on my behalf, I think the whole system is just a massive big money-making machine. Marketing practices for defence lawyers are well, shall we say duplicitous to say the least and paying thousands to “prove” innocence is just crazy. If one has not committed a crime, how then is it down to the defence to prove it?

    But, yes, the culture that Mr Evans was in and of course, many of us have been in those circumstances, heavy drinking, people out of order and uninvited advances, frankly and I have done, a simple foxtrot oscar has served me well. But, it has happened less than twice.

    Brilliant post, as always. It made me laugh too. The CJS is looking more like an episode of “Have I got news for you” as the weeks go by.

    And of course, the jury is out on Max Clifford…

    Whatever next?

    1. I agree with you one hundred percent in relation to ‘the system’ being a massive money-making machine. It’s an astute comment, so you appear to have ‘hit the nail on the head’ twice in quick succession!

      In terms of the criminal justice system, I maintain my position that it is unfit for purpose, and has been for some time now. I am often ‘tongue in cheek’ about it, but (rather like the health service) it is one area where it is shameful that the public should ever have allowed their elected representatives to make such a terrible hash of it. People’s lives are at stake, in both instances.

  3. Well, it is not hard to see. I despair when I see people having faith that having nothing to hide and offering everything in them in order to prove innocence when that is the status quo.

    It is clearly not fit for purpose – it has just got to be a vast monster that has its paws into over 9 million of us. That’s almost a sixth of our population.

    You are correct in that there are far too many offences in play and there are calls for even more.

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