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Totnes MP Sarah Wollaston offered to quit over Nigel Evans case

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: April 15, 2014

By Richard Wheeler


Dr Sarah Wollaston

Comments (4)

Totnes MP Sarah Wollaston insists she would have stood down if two men who made allegations against former deputy speaker Nigel Evans believed she had pressured them to go to the police.

The Tory MP said she made the offer to step down to two complainants who confided in her ahead of taking their allegations against Mr Evans to the police.

Writing for the Daily Telegraph, she said both men are clear she did not pressure them.

Dr Wollaston raised allegations linked to Mr Evans with Speaker John Bercow before complaints were lodged with the police.

Dr Wollaston said she had been shocked by the “rank hostility” since Mr Evans’s acquittal “from those who seriously feel I should have done nothing”.

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

The Ribble Valley MP, who currently sits as an independent, noted in an interview with the Daily Mail of Dr Wollaston: “It was mentioned to her as a throwaway remark yet she pursued it. For whatever reason, she decided to have it in for me.”

On the allegations by the two men, Dr Wollaston wrote: “The only avenue open to the complainants was to go to the police.

“The specific allegation against me, from some colleagues and commentators, has been that I pressured them to do so. This is a very serious charge.

“As a former forensic medical examiner, I am completely aware that the decision to report sexual violence to the police must be made solely by the complainants.

“That is why, when I was approached by the police following the first appointment with the Speaker, I declined to pass over the men’s names or contact details.

“I did, however, pass the officers’ contact details to the two young people concerned.

“In response to the allegations about my role, and since the verdict, I have spoken to them and offered to stand down as an MP if they feel that I pressured them to take the complaint forward.

“Both are clear that I did not do so, and that I discussed with them the risks of doing so as well as their own concerns about protecting others.

“I have set these facts out not to defend my own reputation, but because there are far more important issues at stake. Since the jury delivered its verdict, a backlash has begun.”

The Health Select Committee member said it would have been “rank hypocrisy” from her to demand doctors are struck off for failing to report serious allegations about colleagues “while failing to be prepared to do so myself”.

She made this observation after recalling evidence heard by the committee from the Francis Inquiry into the Mid Staffs scandal.

Dr Wollaston went on: “This process was never going to be easy. But I have been truly shocked by the rank hostility since Mr Evans’s acquittal, from those who seriously feel I should have done nothing.

“How can it be acceptable for a third of the 70 researchers interviewed by Channel 4 News to have experienced sexual harassment at Westminster?

“The people who truly have questions to answer are those who have for so long turned a blind eye to the reports of such harassment.

“I didn’t, and don’t, want to be one of them.”

Former Home Office minister Ann Widdecombe has also spoken about the case saying the odd drunken pass did not make someone a rapist.

The ex-Conservative MP, who lives in Devon, also insisted the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has “major” questions to answer after Nigel Evans became the latest high-profile figure to be cleared of multiple charges.

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

Ms Widdecombe gave a testimonial during the trial of the former deputy speaker in which she said he was “truthful, considerate, kind and gentle”.

Speaking on BBC’s Newsnight, Ms Widdecombe said: “I think the fact somebody makes the odd drunken pass does not make them a rapist, and I never believed the allegations that were made.

“They’ve been through a proper process of trial and have been shown not to be sustained.

“And I think there are now major questions to be answered, not least on the part of the CPS, because this is just the latest in a whole series of cases where high-profile people have faced not one charge but multiple charges and have then been acquitted on all of them.”

Ms Widdecombe also reiterated her view that judges should have the option to name an accuser if they believe their allegations are groundless.

She went on: “I think either you have anonymity for both or you have anonymity for neither, or you have the course which I would prefer, which is where you do allow accusers to be anonymous, but at the end of the trial if the accused is acquitted then it should be a matter for the judge to decide whether or not the anonymity should be preserved, and whether they should be named at that point.

“So if he thinks that an allegation was wholly unsubstantiated or frivolous or malicious or whatever it might be, he might then decide they could no longer have anonymity and that the press could name them, or he might decide that the circumstances were such that the anonymity could continue.

“What I don’t think is fair – and I’ve said this for a long while, this doesn’t just come out of the Nigel case, I’ve written this in the past – is where you’ve got anonymity for one side but not for the other.”

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  • Tony248i  |  April 16 2014, 10:35AM

    Certainly not criticising Sarah Wollaston, she simply did what was right. But, Diesel, when you talk about these abuse cases, haven't you noticed that a high proportion of them are being kicked out of court? There are people out there who jump on a bandwagon of accusing prominent figures, be they politicians, show biz people, or sportsmen.

    Rate   1
  • Tony248i  |  April 15 2014, 12:17PM

    The other side of that coin is that unscrupulous people (of both genders it now appears) make unfounded allegations against high profile people, in the expectation that, if they succeed, they will be paid large amounts by the Press for their stories.

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  • Pink_Diesel  |  April 15 2014, 10:12AM

    ///Ms Widdecombe gave a testimonial during the trial of the former deputy speaker in which she said he was "truthful, considerate, kind and gentle"./// This was probably also said of Cyril Smith. The whole history of recent abuse cases has shown "very nice" people commit abuse.

    Rate   1
  • Pink_Diesel  |  April 15 2014, 10:09AM

    Stay in place, please. The whole recent history of sexual abuse cases is about powerful people being safe as the victims don't beleive they will be listened to. And it's better to do something that to do nothing.

    Rate   2