QC: DJ's illness was a hangover

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CHRIS Evans was yesterday accused of lying in court about "crucial events" which led to his sacking by the media company he is suing for £8.6 million.

The former DJ and television presenter is claiming in the High Court that Virgin Radio withheld his share options after unfairly terminating his breakfast show contract in a highly-publicised and bitter bust-up.

Evans, 37, said he attempted to meet his bosses to discuss his radio show but had been ignored.

He also claimed he went on a drinking spree and missed a series of broadcasts because he was put under so much pressure by management at the station.

Geoffrey Vos QC, representing Scottish Media Group, the owners of Virgin Radio, told Mr Justice Lightman that he accepted that Evans was a talented radio presenter and "something of a maverick".

But, he added: "Neither of these excuses the dishonesty with which he treated this court. Mr Evans was lying in important respects - not about insignificant matters, but about matters regarded by him as crucial to the events that gave rise to the termination of the contract."

Mr Vos said Evans made a "concerted attempt to mislead your lordship’s court" into thinking he had waited for three hours at Virgin Radio for the meeting on 20 June, 2001, whereas he had eventually admitted he was there for just 75 minutes, drinking lager at the station. "This is dishonesty which is crucial to the case and cannot be ignored, covered up or excused."

Mr Vos went on: "Mr Evans is a man who finds it impossible to accept responsibility for things that go wrong in his or other people’s lives. He tries - and did try, in this case - to avoid a difficult situation."

He said Evans ran away from problems that confronted him, first by fleeing abroad in May 2001, and then by going on a drinking binge the following month.

The personal attack on the former presenter of the television programme TFI Friday came as the final arguments of both sides in the action were put to Mr Justice Lightman.

Mr Vos said Evans failed to turn up for work on his show on 21 June after a "marathon drinking binge".

John Pearson, the chief executive of Virgin Radio, was told by Evans’s wife, Billie Piper, a former singer, that the DJ was ill. "Evans was not ill," said Mr Vos, "he was actually drunk or hungover." Michael Foster, Evans’s agent, also told Mr Pearson his client was unwell and would be getting a sick note from his doctor. Mr Vos said: "This was untrue. His illness was self-induced and a red herring."

When Evans did see a doctor, evidence was given in court that he did become upset. Mr Vos said: "It seems likely that Mr Evans put on the crying to impress the doctor because he had been told he might need to show he was ill to advance his case against Virgin Radio."

Evans wanted a situation where he was in complete control at the station, said Mr Vos. "He was overlooking that SMG had paid 225 million for the station of which he was personally entitled to over 70 million."

SMG is counter-suing Evans for alleged damage to its business estimated at in excess of 20 million.

The hearing was adjourned until today, when Christopher Pymont QC, for Evans, will begin his final arguments.