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Former House Speaker may have struggled with sexuality, court told

FORMER Commons deputy speaker Nigel Evans's "struggle with his own sexuality" may have led him to commit indecent acts, a jury has heard.

Preston Crown Court was told yesterday Mr Evans knew he was gay by the time he was elected as an MP in 1992 but did not go public until the end of 2010.

The 56-year-old said in evidence that from 2000 onwards he began to seek men for sexual relationships.

In 2003 Mr Evans is alleged to have indecently assaulted two men in their 20s when he approached them in public places, drunk, and put his hand down their trousers.

Prosecutor Mark Heywood QC told jurors: "What we see is not a prior engagement. It is not eye to eye. It is not social interaction, a tactile touch. This is groping."

Mr Evans denies the offences and has also pleaded not guilty to charges of rape, sexual assault and attempted sexual assault involving five other men.

In his closing speech to jurors, Mr Heywood said Mr Evans's character and achievements could be seen to be "a given" but a different picture of him had emerged in evidence.

He added: "Why is it that a man like Nigel Evans finds himself in this situation here? Is it perhaps born of a long life of service but obscuring a truth which he himself was reluctant to first admit and then to publicise?; a struggle with his own sexuality that led eventually to a decision at the beginning of the last decade to pursue contact with others?

"Was it simply that, at the start of those events, he was unable to do it as others had done and do, coming to it so late? Is that what lies behind some of this?"

The first alleged victim was standing at a Soho bar with friends when Mr Evans is said to have sidled up to him and placed his hand down his trousers.

A similar incident is alleged to have taken place with another young man at the Number 10 bar at the 2003 Conservative Party conference in Blackpool.

Mr Evans has told the court he has no recollection of either incident.

On the charge of raping a 22-year-old man at his home, in summing up the prosecutor said the alleged victim had given clear signals to Mr Evans he was not consenting.

Mr Heywood told the jury: "We submit your conclusion should be that Mr Evans is guilty as charged."

The trial continues.

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