Should the CPS pay Nigel Evans’ Legal Costs?

by Ray_North on April 14, 2014

Nigel evansNigel Evans has been acquitted of everything he was accused of. Ok. Fair enough. Good luck to the man, I hope he now goes on to live a very nice and productive life.

As George East said, rightly, on these pages last week, the charges were bought by the CPS because they had taken an objective view of the evidence and the allegation and felt, rightly, that charges had to follow.

Now however, Nigel Evans has taken to the airwaves to tell everyone who will listen how hard-done by he has been and how the CPS should now pay his legal expenses of £130,000. He says that this will teach the CPS to only pursue cases that are worthy.

Hmm. It’s an interesting point that he raises.

As regular readers know, I spend most of my days defending those accused of criminal acts. Occasionally, I win my trials. Upon acquittal, I am able to make an application for the defendant’s ‘out of pocket expenses’ which amounts, effectively, to his bus fare or any car parking and petrol he’s had to fork out for.

Sometimes, those who I’ve defended say to me, ‘hold on, I’ve spent the last nine months of my life waiting for this trial, is there any recompense for me?’ And I have to tell them that there isn’t unless they wanted to chance their arm in the civil courts and make a claim for malicious prosecution or similar, which I tell them would probably be futile and expensive.

Earlier this year, I defended a young man who was accused of harassment against his former girlfriend – as he had previous conviction for the same offence, he was remanded into custody. The nature of the allegation was that he had sent his ex a message on social media – he told me, just as he told the police on arrest that it wasn’t him and that they should check the IP address of his computer and the computer that sent the messages. A year later, someone got round to doing that and they realised that he couldn’t be the culprit, and so, after a year in HMP Liverpool, my client was released without a blemish on his name.

I went to see him – was he happy? Well, he was happy to be going home, but he was pissed off at having wasted a year of his life in prison for a crime that he was utterly innocent of. ‘Can I get any compo?’ he asked and I told him that he couldn’t. He shrugged his shoulders and we parted. In reality, if anyone has a good case for compensation, it would be him, because the case against him, could be proved either way fairly quickly and comprehensively, and the failure to do so, was no fault of his.

Nigel Evans’ case is different, because it goes to the heart of why we don’t give money to those who are acquitted at trial. In cases like the one involving Nigel Evans – the issue lies in the credibility of witnesses and that, ultimate, is a matter for a jury. Imagine if the CPS refused to prosecute sex cases because they were a bit fearful of putting a witness before a jury and even more fearful of getting stung for costs – the overriding objective of the CPS is and must remain to treat every person who makes an allegation in an objective way and any decision to charge must be made following an objective consideration of the evidence, not on the potential cost if there is a not guilty verdict. Now, Nigel Evans, whether he likes it or not, was accused of a crime by a number of people. It turns out that he had done nothing criminally wrong – the system of justice has worked properly: the evidence was gathered, presented and tested before a jury, who reached their verdict.

If Nigel Evans had been my client, I would have quoted the great Mick Jones, to him, ‘Nige,’ I would have said, ‘well done, keep your head down, and stay free.’

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Mike Killingworth April 16, 2014 at 6:31 am

Ray, I’m appalled. Not with the system, but with you.

You had a client against whom there was not a shred of evidence, who spent a year remanded in custody (and I accept that that may well have been a year in which he wasn’t getting up to other mischief, but you of all people should know that’s irrelevant) because the prosecution was either lazy or incompetent, and you didn’t even point him towards the NCCL or a friendly journalist?

Now look me in the eye – as far as you can online – and tell me that if it had been your kid brother you’d’ve behaved exactly the same. To save you the trouble, I’ll tell you now that I wouldn’t believe you.

Reply

Ray North April 16, 2014 at 9:36 am

Ah, Mike, if it was only that easy.
Clearly my account doesn’t do the case justice – but, trust me, there was a prima facie case against my client right up until the moment when someone was bothered to check the IP address of the computer that had been used to send the messages, that were the subject of the complaint. The point I make that in a case like that, when the CPS could have obtained definitive evidence there may be a case for compensating acquitted defendants, but, in a case where the whole allegation depends upon the credibility of a witness then there is less of a case because that is a matter for a jury, rather than a lawyer.

Reply

Mike Killingworth April 16, 2014 at 5:16 pm

Well, Ray, obviously you haven’t done the case justice: as you tell the story there’s a prima facie alibi – I’ll just have to accept that there was a good reason no one checked it for a year. :(

Reply

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