The former deputy speaker of the House of Commons Nigel Evans MP has been cleared of rape and a number of other allegations of sexual assault after a five-week trial at Preston Crown Court.

The verdict came after the defence highlighted a number of inconsistencies in various witness accounts

It was was unanimous on all counts. The jury found Mr Evans not guilty of one count of rape, five sexual assaults, one attempted sexual assault and two indecent assaults.

Mr Evans resigned as deputy speaker after he was charged in September 2013. He is the MP for Ribble Valley having gained the seat for the Conservatives from the Lib Dems at the 1992 General Election. He was Shadow Welsh Secretary from 2001-03. As a deputy speaker he did not take the whip as this is a non-partisan role.

In a statement, Mr Evans said:

As many of you know, I’ve gone through 11 months of hell. I’ve not been alone. Many have walked with me, including my team at Clitheroe and Westminster, my constituency association, my family, my friends, my constituents, and indeed many people who I don’t even know have sent messages of support.

In my darkest and loneliest, there were only two, or one, set of footprints in the sand. And those of you of faith will know they weren’t mine.

The fact is I have got work to do. It’s the work that I have done for the last 22 years. So this isn’t a time for celebration or euphoria. Bill Roache just a few weeks ago from this very spot said there are no winners in these cases and that’s absolutely right. There are no winners. So no celebrations.

And the fact is I’ve got work to do, work that I’ve done for the last 22 years. All I can say is that after the last 11 months that I’ve gone through nothing will ever be the same again.

While Members of Parliament should not be above the law it is also a matter of concern if they are discriminated against due to their status.

Nigel Evans has been a friend of mine for the last 20 years. The allegations struck me as quite at odds with what I have seen of his charcter and personality. I am pleased that his name has been cleared. It is hard ti imagine how difficult the past year must have been for him. I hope he will now be able to continue with his political career.