Sheffield United and Wales footballer Ched Evans was jailed for five years today after being found guilty of raping a woman who was “too drunk to consent” to sex as two of his friends watched and tried to film it on a mobile phone.
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Evans was found guilty of raping the then 19-year-old at a hotel following a night out in Rhyl, north Wales, last May.
His co-defendant, Port Vale defender Clayton McDonald, was found not guilty of the same charge. Evans and McDonald, both 23, denied the alleged attack.
Court proceedings were disrupted after McDonald was acquitted, prompting a brief adjournment.
The court heard that both men admitted they had sex with the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, but the prosecution said she was too drunk to consent to sexual intercourse.
In her evidence to police, the woman said she has no memory of the incident and believes her drink may have been spiked.
The jury first returned a not-guilty verdict on McDonald after four hours and 52 minutes of deliberations.
McDonald, of Marys Gate, Crewe, Cheshire, looked elated as the verdict was read out.
His family and friends in the public gallery reacted by shouting “Yes, yes”.
One man left the courtroom and could be heard screaming.
Judge Merfyn Hughes QC then rose and everyone in the public gallery was ordered to leave the court.
McDonald remained in the dock with Evans, 23, of Ashtree Gardens, Millhouse Green, Penistone, South Yorkshire, who held his head in his hands and cried hysterically.
McDonald hugged Evans and the two footballers, who first met when they were both at the Manchester City youth academy, banged heads together.
When the judge returned to the court, the jury foreman gave the guilty verdict against Evans.
The Sheffield United centre forward threw the headphones he was using to follow the trial on the floor and then looked shocked.
Judge Hughes told McDonald he was free to leave the dock and after the footballer exited the court, shouts of “No, no” could be heard.
Sentencing Evans to five years in prison, Judge Hughes said: “The complainant was 19 years of age and was extremely intoxicated.
“CCTV footage shows, in my view, the extent of her intoxication when she stumbled into your friend.
“As the jury have found, she was in no condition to have sexual intercourse.
“When you arrived at the hotel, you must have realised that.”
He told Evans that he might have been used to receiving attention from women in the past due to his success as a footballer, but this case was “very different”.
He said the sentence took into account that there had been no force involved and the complainant received no injuries.
He also said the complainant was not “targeted” and the attack had not been “premeditated”.
“You have thrown away the successful career in which you were involved,” he told Evans before sending him down.
The court heard that McDonald and the woman walked into the hotel “linking arms” and went to his room.
McDonald said they sat on the bed and she immediately began touching his genitals.
Evans arrived shortly afterwards, went to the room and found the pair having sex.
McDonald claimed that Evans asked if he could get involved, while Evans claimed it was McDonald who asked him if he wanted to have sex with the woman.
Liverpool-born McDonald said that while they were having sex the woman was “moaning and groaning like she was enjoying herself”.
Giving evidence, Evans said: “She was not very drunk.
“She had had a drink, but she was not very drunk.”
He said she was “in control”.
Both men denied that they had booked the room with a view to “procuring” a woman or women to have sex with there.
As the incident took place, Jack Higgins, an “associate” of the footballers, and Ryan Roberts, Evans’s brother, watched through a window.
Video recordings found on Mr Higgins’ phone showed he had been filming or trying to film the incident.
While Evans and the complainant were having sex, McDonald left.
The jury heard that, as he went through reception, he said to staff at the hotel: “You know that girl I was with? Keep an eye her. She’s sick.”
In cross-examination, McDonald denied he said the complainant was ill.
Evans, who had been with his girlfriend for 18 months at the time, left through a fire escape shortly afterwards.
He claimed he left because he was worried that his girlfriend, whom he is still with, would call while he was on his own in a room with another woman.
The complainant woke up the next morning, naked and alone in the hotel bedroom.
The last thing she could remember was being in The Godfather takeaway in Rhyl and getting into a discussion over a pizza box.
She said that when she woke up, her main concern was that she could not find her handbag.
In an interview with the police a day after the incident, she said: “It is just horrible because I don’t know how I got there.”
David Fish QC, for the defence, told the court it was a “sad day” for Evans.
“He is aged 23 and has, until now, had a promising career to which he has devoted his whole life since his teens,” he said.
“That career has now been lost.”
In mitigation, Mr Fish said Evans had not targeted the complainant and had come to the matter “very late”.
During the trial, the court heard that, on the night of Sunday May 29, Evans and McDonald went out in Rhyl, socialising with friends.
In the early hours of Monday May 30, they had been separated after a fight involving their friend, Javan Vidal, another former Manchester City youth academy footballer.
CCTV footage played to the jury showed McDonald being approached by the complainant and getting into a taxi which she flagged down.
He then took the woman, whom he and Evans had earlier seen fall over in a kebab shop, to a Premier Inn hotel room that Evans had booked in McDonald’s name.
During the drive to the hotel, McDonald called someone on his phone to say he was with a girl.
The complainant had been drinking wine, double vodkas with lemonade and had also had a sambuca shot.
In an interview with the police, she said she believed her drink was spiked that night because she was used to drinking heavily and had never “blacked out” before.
Evans, originally from St Asaph, is a graduate of the Manchester City youth academy and scored 10 goals in 28 league appearances while on loan to Norwich City in 2007.
The following year he scored in his debut game for Wales and later joined League One side Sheffield United in a £3 million deal.
McDonald has played for Macclesfield Town, Chesterfield and Walsall.
He joined Port Vale at the end of last season.
The footballers have been friends since they were 10 years old and shared digs while they attended the youth academy.
Nita Dowell, Senior Crown Prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service in Wales, said: “The Crown Prosecution Service respects the verdicts of the jury in relation to both defendants.
“Ched Evans took advantage of a vulnerable young woman who was in no fit state to consent to sexual activity. He did so knowingly and with a total disregard for her physical or emotional well-being.
“It is a myth that being vulnerable through alcohol consumption means that a victim is somehow responsible for being raped. The law is clear: being vulnerable through drink or drugs does not imply consent.
“Rape is an extremely damaging offence, but it can also be one of the most misunderstood and difficult to prosecute.
“The Crown Prosecution Service, in partnership with the police and other agencies, is working hard to help combat and dispel the myths and stereotypes that exist around the issue of rape.
“We want victims to feel that they can report an offence to the police, confident in the knowledge that their complaint will be taken seriously and they will be treated with respect.”
Sheffield United said the club recognised “the seriousness of these events and as such wishes to respond in a responsible way when it has taken sufficient time to consider the matter fully”.
In a statement released via the club’s website, Evans’s lawyers said: “Ched Evans is shocked and extremely disappointed with the decision reached today by the jury at Caernarfon Crown Court to convict him of the charge brought against him.
“Mr Evans firmly maintains his innocence in this matter and is being advised regarding an appeal of the decision.”
McDonald’s legal team said in a statement published on Port Vale FC’s website: “Clayton McDonald has maintained his innocence from the start and is relieved at his verdict.
“However, he is very upset and disappointed regarding the verdict given to his lifelong friend, Ched Evans, whom he will continue to support in any way possible.
“Clayton would like to thank his family, friends, the staff and fans of Port Vale Football Club and his legal team for their continued support.”
Detective Chief Inspector Steve Williams, the senior investigating officer for North Wales Police, said: “I would like to pay tribute to the courage of the victim in this case, who has shown a great deal of resilience and strength in very difficult circumstances.
“I sincerely hope that the guilty verdict will provide some closure on this horrendous ordeal for the victim and that she will be able to rebuild her life which was shattered by the events of May 30 2011.
“I would also like to thank the other witnesses who have come forward to assist North Wales Police in their investigation of this case. Without their continued co-operation, Evans may not have been brought to justice.”
He added: “No-one is above the law and I welcome the conviction which again demonstrates that North Wales Police, in conjunction with our partners at the Crown Prosecution Service, are absolutely committed to investigating all incidents of this nature fairly, professionally and robustly to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice.”