The prosecution of former Commons deputy speaker Nigel Evans, 56, has been roundly criticised by Tory MPs after he was cleared of a string of sexual offences.

Mr Evans wept in the dock after a jury at Preston Crown Court unanimously found him not guilty of nine sexual allegations, including one of rape, after a five-week trial.

Outside court, the Ribble Valley MP referred to having gone through "11 months of hell" since his initial arrest last May and added that "nothing will ever be the same again".

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Mr Evans was found not guilty of one count of rape, five sexual assaults, one attempted sexual assault and two indecent assaults.

Three of his seven alleged victims did not consider an offence had been committed against them.

A fourth man said he "had a bit of a giggle" about Mr Evans's supposed sexual assault on him, while a fifth came forward to the police with his allegations but two days later said he wanted to withdraw them and did not wish the MP to be questioned about "a drunken misunderstanding."

All five, plus another man, did not make complaints to police at the time of the alleged offences.

The only contemporaneous complaint was that of the young man who triggered the investigation by Lancashire Constabulary when he said Mr Evans had raped him weeks earlier.

Former shadow home secretary David Davis called for the practice of using lesser charges to "reinforce" a more-serious one to be looked at: "We must now review the process whereby the police and the Crown Prosecution Service put together a large number of lesser, subsidiary cases in order to reinforce one serious case when prosecuting sexual offences.

In a statement, the Crown Prosecution Service said: "The complainants provided clear accounts of the alleged offending and it was right that all of the evidence was put before a jury."

Lancashire Constabulary said all of the evidence was subjected to "careful scrutiny" before Mr Evans was charged.

Mr Evans was a ­Conservative MP before he was elected in 2010 as one of three deputy speakers, a politically neutral role. He stepped down last September after he was charged. He is representing his constituents as an independent. David Cameron hinted he will be brought back into the Tory fold.