A Newport councillor has admitted soliciting a sex worker in Pillgwenlly.Chris Evans, an independent councillor for Rogerstone, appeared at Newport Magistrates' Court on Thursday and received a conditional discharge after pleading guilty to soliciting the services of a prostitute on Commercial Road in Pillgwenlly. Evans' lawyer told the court his client was already resigned to losing the councillor role but the defendant said after the hearing he had yet to decide on his position, adding: "Don't push me anymore. Let me have time to have a think. There is no rule that I have to."
The 56-year-old, who has lost his job as a senior advertising manager for the South Wales Argus and Newsquest, was caught by police on May 22 last year in his car.Prosecutor Natasha Roberts said: "The officer was chasing after the man on foot. He entered West Market Street and continued to look for the man. When the officer was in the middle of the road, the defendant's car passed him and pulled up on the side of the junction.""The officer walked up to the vehicle to check if the wanted male had been seen by the driver. He recognised the driver as a local councillor, having been in meetings with him."When Evans lowered his window and said hello, the officer replied: "Hello, you're Chris, the Rogerstone councillor."Ms Roberts said the officer then noticed a woman in the passenger seat. From his work with charities, he recognised her as a sexually exploited adult.When the officer asked why she was in Evans' car, the councillor stuttered and replied: "Er yeah, I work with her as part of my role with the Wallich."The officer described Evans' tone as "unconvincing". Police later checked Evans' claim with the Wallich charity, which supports vulnerable people. The charity told police that Evans had no role with them.While the officer was speaking to Evans, he thought he heard the wanted man he had been chasing. The officer ran in the direction of the sound, but was unable to catch the suspect. He walked back towards Commercial Road, where he saw the woman who had been in Evans' car.
She told him that Evans was a "punter".
Evans' lawyer Rod Young said: "He had been in Pill that night. He parked his vehicle in the Asda car park. He walked through Pill, he had seen the prostitute and spoken to her. She was known to him. She had asked him if he would give her a lift because she was owed money."
"Initially he said no, but in the end he drove her to a property in Somerton where she picked up some money, and he drove her back [towards Pill]. It was during this journey, he concedes, that her services were discussed.""Whether he would have ever gone through with it, we will never know. He did not go through with it and no money ever changed hands. He accepts a provision was made for an arrangement of sexual services. The officer recognised him. Had he not been a well known face, he would not have been here today."Mr Young added his client pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity. He said the incident has had a "devastating" effect on Evans."He'll never know why he did what he did that night," Mr Young continued. "It was a lapse of judgement, it was a moment of madness, is how he described it. He has hitherto been an elected representative, a city councillor for Rogerstone, a respected and highly-thought-of member of the community.""He is a person who has helped umpteen and countless people, not only in his constituency but also further afield in the Newport area, and also prostitutes and homeless people in the Pill area, which is ironically why he was known to the officer who identified him.
"He has lost his job as a senior advertising manager at Newsquest. He will undoubtedly lose his position as a councillor. Most importantly of all, his relationship with his daughter has been damaged, hopefully not irreparably, but for the foreseeable future.""He's been very close to a breakdown. He has sought professional help with a consultant psychologist on a weekly basis and has been prescribed medication."Presiding justice Shijil Miah told Evans: "You have quite decently admitted to this guilt rather than trying to avoid or prolong it, dragging it through a trial, even though it has a huge impact on your life."
"You lost your job and your position as a councillor, and the fact it profoundly affected your mental health — having taken all that into account, we are going to impose a conditional discharge for 12 months. That means you are not being punished today for that offence.""However, if you commit any other offence in the next 12 months you will be punished for this offence in addition to any other offence you may commit. I'm sure you won't, someone of your record."Mr Miah also imposed a victim services surcharge of £22 and prosecution costs of £85, with 28 days to pay."
Following the hearing Evans gave an interview to WalesOnline and contradicted the words of his lawyer. Asked if he would resign as a councillor, he said he had not yet decided, adding: "There is no ticking time bomb. It's not what people were trying to make out."He added: "I am going to start to do things differently. It is what it is. I made a mistake. The world kicked back a lot bloody harder."
"I am proud. I brought my daughters up to be advocates for women's rights. Maybe an act of kindness was interpreted as a weakness, but I am really grateful the court tried to understand what really happened."Asked what he meant by an "act of kindness", Evans said: "I was trying to be kind to somebody to give somebody a lift... I want to move on with an honest life."He made reference to experiencing addiction issues and going through "recovery", though he declined to go into further detail. He said he had resigned from his role as a council-appointed governor at Bassaleg School and High Cross Primary.
Evans was first elected to Newport City Council in 2012. He was originally a member of the Labour Party but became an independent councillor after he was suspended from the party in 2016.
A spokesperson for Newport City Council said it was "unaware" Mr Evans intended to plead guilty.
"It will now consider its position following further discussions with Councillor Evans," a statement said.
"The council has no powers to disqualify him from his role as a city councillor."