Cleared Ched Evans defends controversial evidence in rape trial

Footballer Ched Evans, who has been found not guilty or rape by a jury.
Footballer Ched Evans, who has been found not guilty or rape by a jury.

Exonerated footballer Ched Evans has defended the controversial decision to allow details of the complainant’s sex life to feature in his retrial.

The former Wales international player said his case was “exceptional”, and justified the rare step that saw the inclusion of new evidence from two of her previous lovers.

Mr Evans spent two and a half years in prison after being convicted in 2012 of raping a drunken waitress who prosecutors said was too intoxicated to have consented.

The striker maintained his innocence and his family hired private investigators to gather new evidence, offering a £50,000 reward for information that helped to clear his name.

In March the Court of Appeal overturned his conviction, ordered he be retried and, under scarcely-used rape trial rules, two of her former lovers then took the stand for his defence.

Campaigners reacted angrily after the 27-year-old was cleared of rape at Cardiff Crown Court on Friday, with many voicing concerns that the case had set a dangerous precedent.

Mr Evans told the Mail on Sunday: “I think that was a massive issue for the courts to deal with.

“That kind of evidence can only be used under exceptional circumstances. The fact is, these were exceptional circumstances in the eyes of the law.

“This evidence was allowed by the Criminal Cases Review Commission and by three High Court judges.”

But one critic warned his acquittal could lead to a “rapists’ charter”.

Justice for Women co-founder Julie Bindel said Mr Evans’ case had set the fight for justice for victims of rape and sexual assault back by 30 years “at least”.

She said the way Mr Evans’ defence team introduced the woman’s sexual history was a “disgrace” and levelled further criticism at the judges who ordered the retrial.

Ms Bindel warned that as a result, victims of sexual crimes would be less likely to report their cases to police in case their sex lives were laid bare in court.

“The Ched Evans acquittal, and the way his defence was run, has led to a rapists’ charter,” she wrote in the Mail on Sunday.

Her fierce criticism follows comments by former solicitor general Vera Baird, now Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria, who expressed concern over admitting the woman’s previous lovers’ testimony.

She told the BBC: “The only difference between a clear conviction of Mr Evans in 2012 and the absolute refusal of him having any leave to appeal at that time, and his acquittal now, is that he has called some men to throw discredit on (the woman’s) sexual reputation.

“That, I think, is pouring prejudice, which is exactly what used to happen before the law in 1999 stopped the admission of previous sexual history in order to show consent.

“We’ve gone back, I’m afraid, probably about 30 years.”

Mr Evans was originally convicted of raping a 19-year-old woman in a Premier Inn near Rhyl, north Wales, in May 2011, when he was 22.

He served half of a five-year prison sentence before being released, but there was a public outcry when he attempted to return to professional football.

Mr Evans joined League One club Chesterfield FC after the Court of Appeal quashed his conviction.

He told the Mail on Sunday: “When I went to prison, the people who are against me were happy the law was in order. But now, after going through the Court of Appeal and getting a not guilty verdict from a jury, they are not happy with it.”

Evans suggested that young footballers needed educating about the dangers surrounding alcohol, sex and the law.

“I was young at the time and I was stupid and I wasn’t aware of the situations you could potentially find yourself in that would land you in trouble. I have never been taught about anything like that,” he said.