Tory denies gay rights man attack
By Sharon AsplinA CONSERVATIVE councillor accused of attacking a gay rights campaigner said last night he was "totally innocent" of all allegations against him.
By Sharon Asplin
A CONSERVATIVE councillor accused of attacking a gay rights campaigner said last night he was "totally innocent" of all allegations against him.
Colchester borough councillor Matthew Eaton, a former aide to North Essex MP Bernard Jenkin, is one of two Tories to have been arrested in connection with the alleged homophobic assault.
Mr Eaton, who represents the Mile End ward on Colchester Borough Council, was arrested after gay policy adviser Chris Carter, 27, claimed he had been attacked yards from the Houses of Westminster.
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Mr Carter, who has links to New Labour, alleged he had been beaten and kicked outside a bar in Westminster in July, but the incident has only just come to light.
Mr Eaton, 27, was working as an assistant in the private office of Shadow Defence Secretary and Essex North MP, Bernard Jenkin, at the time of the alleged incident.
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The Colchester councillor was arrested with fellow aide Charles Ranson, who worked for East Anglian Conservative MP, Malcolm Moss.
Scotland Yard confirmed two men had been released on police bail following an "homophobic motivated attack".
But Mr Eaton insisted yesterday he was innocent of all charges and added: "In July 2003, I was involved in an incident in Victoria Street, London, SW1, at 1.30am that was not of my making.
"However, a complaint had been made against me to the police and as a result I voluntarily went to Paddington Green police station, where I was formally arrested and released on police bail pending further investigation.
"I totally refute and am innocent of all the allegations made against me. I have co-operated entirely with the police during their investigation.
"I have the entire and full support of my group leader at Colchester Borough Council. I intend to carry on working hard for the people of my ward."
John Jowers, the Conservative leader on Colchester Borough Council, said last night he had been in close contact with Mr Eaton, whom had "his full trust".
He added: "Homophobic assault is a really serious allegation to lodge against anyone. Unfortunately, whatever the outcome, mud will stick in issues like this.
"My view is innocent until proven guilty. Matt has done a good job in Mile End and supported his residents."
Mr Jenkin said Mr Eaton, whose family home is in Boxted, had left his employ at the end of August, but stressed the leaving date had been fixed before the alleged incident.
"I feel there is an agenda to imply that I am homophobic, but I was one of the first Conservatives to vote for the equalisation of the age of consent in John Major's Parliament," he added.
"I cannot comment on the incident itself, but an incident like this is certainly outside my experience of Matt. But I want to make it clear that it is a matter for the police to decide if there are any charges to answer."
Neil Stock, the Colchester Conservative Association chairman, said the Tories would never tolerate homophobia and added it went without saying if Mr Eaton were convicted of a homophobic attack, he would not be selected for re-election in Colchester.
"But I know him quite well personally and I cannot imagine such a thing at all – he is the last person to be involved in any physical aggression, let alone violence, and we are all standing by him and fully supporting him," he said.
Mr Moss, the North-East Cambridgeshire MP and Conservative arts and tourism spokesman, said: "My guy denies being involved. He is devastated."
A spokeswoman for Colchester Borough Council said it would be inappropriate to comment while a police investigation was continuing.
A Scotland Yard spokeswoman said: "Four men were arrested in connection with a homophobic motivated assault on Victoria Street, SW1, at about 1.30am on 18 July.
"Police later released two of the men with no further action and the other two are on police bail. Man A will return to Paddington police station on November 20, man B on November 22."