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Nigel Evans’ legal bill is ‘his own bloody fault’ and ‘beyond parody’, say lawyers

MP reportedly approved legal aid cuts but admits shock at fees

16 April 2014

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Lawyers have blasted Nigel Evans' hopes to reclaim the £130,000 he paid a QC for his defence against sexual assault claims after he previously condemned the rising cost of legal aid.

The Ribble Valley MP, who was cleared last Thursday, said in an interview with ITV that the legal bill for acquitted defendants left them "doubly punished" and George Osborne "smiling all the way to the bank".

His comments prompted a Twitter rant from a barrister known only as '@acommonlawyer', which received more than 11,000 views online.

He told Solicitors Journal: "The idea that a Tory government could push through a bill and then somewhat unusually a Tory MP is caught in the net, and then they backtrack once they discover: 'Oh, it could apply to us as well.' It's beyond laughable, it's beyond parody."

The barrister, who is dually qualified in English and French law but practises exclusively in France, said that he would be happy for Evans to recoup the extortionate fees, if the payment was tied to the law and allowed other acquitted defendants to do the same.

He added that it would be absolutely out of the question to recover his defence cost and leave the law unchanged.

Sketchy memory

Evans said in the television interview that he was unable to recall if he had supported legal aid cuts when they went through parliament.

However, @acommonlawyer insisted that the MP had voted in parts of LASPO 2012 before he became deputy speaker and suggested that his passive stance in parliament had contributed towards the cuts being enforced.

"He had rebelled in previous parliaments, but not in the current one," he said.

"He was somebody who was well regarded in the Tory party. Had he turned his mind to the issue with a little empathy, he might well have thought, 'What happens if I'm accused of something? This could cost me quite a lot of money.'

"He might have said to the Tory party, well let's think twice about this. Is it right that defendants are not able to recover their costs even when they're successful?"

Franklin Sinclair, senior partner of criminal law firm Tuckers, said that Evans' legal bill was "a glorious, magnificent irony" and that he had "no sympathy for the man whatsoever".

Sinclair also criticised Evans' decision to hire a top QC because there were no complex issues.

He said that Evans' bill was "his own bloody fault".

Following Evans' acquittal, attorney general Dominic Grieve is due to discuss sexual offences brought against high-profile figures with Alison Saunders, the director of public prosecutions, at their next regular meeting.

Coronation Street actors Bill Roache and Michael Le Vell and former Radio 1 DJ Dave Lee Travis have all been acquitted of sexual assaults recently.

However, Travis has now been charged with one count of indecent assault. He denies the charge.

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