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Time for a reality check

The Tory MP for Ribble Valley, who has sat as an Independent since standing down as deputy speaker after being charged, wants anonymity for defendants in such cases.

Nigel Evans is reborn as a legal campaigner in the wake of his acquittal of nine rape or sexual assault charges.

The Tory MP for Ribble Valley, who has sat as an Independent since standing down as deputy speaker after being charged, wants anonymity for defendants in such cases.

He also wants the £130,000 he paid for legal representation returned to him on the grounds of being found not guilty.

There can be a tendency for MPs, especially after a quarter-century in the Westminster village, with its rituals and strange ways of doing things, to lose touch slightly with events outside Parliament.

So it may be that Evans is unaware that his experience is not unique. That should be explained to his fellow MPs clamouring their support.

Countless defendants are charged, pay large amounts of money to their legal teams, face public ridicule and hostility during their trial and are then found not guilty.

It is one of the quirks of the English legal system that solicitors and barristers who charge the highest fees tend to have the most successful records on behalf of their clients.

This conundrum was explained best by the late Sir Gerald Nabarro, an unpleasant racist Tory who was MP for South Worcestershire when charged with speeding and driving the wrong way round a roundabout.

After his legal team persuaded a jury in 1972 that police had mistaken his trademark handlebar moustache for his young secretary's fashionable side-swept coiffure, he proclaimed pompously that "calumny" had been defeated.

"It underlines the simple point I made - that, if a man can afford to pay, he will secure justice. The man who cannot afford to pay will rarely secure it," Nabarro explained outside the court.

Evans's decision to invest heavily in his own innocence is understandable, but, having done so, he has no right to a full refund, especially as a loyal Tory who has no previous record of disagreement with his party's policies on slashing funding for the legal system.

Perhaps he and his parliamentary supporters are unaware that, thanks to the conservative coalition government, defendants who are acquitted have been restricted for the past two years to reclaiming from central funds only a sum equivalent to their entitlement under legal aid.

How could they know this? They're only the people who make the laws, the MPs who troop loyally into the division lobbies in support of the government's penny-pinching policies.

Evans, who was paid £30,000 as deputy speaker on top of his £66,396 parliamentary salary complains that his life savings are gone.

When he has a minute, perhaps he could explain to millions of low-paid or jobless people in Britain what life savings or any kind of savings are.

He could also begin to show some empathy with people outside Westminster who may be faced with the need to defend themselves against criminal charges and discover that only people enjoying less than an annual family income of £37,500, minus some costs, are now eligible for legal aid.

Evans has clearly had a very unpleasant 11 months, even a nightmare, but not, as he insists, a "witch-hunt" or a "public execution."

MPs jumping on the Evans bandwagon should take a reality check and research the effect of their policies on people struggling to survive outside the parliamentary cocoon before they portray one of their own as a martyr.

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