On the ITV show Loose Women, Finnigan spoke about Evans, a convicted rapist who is expected to be released from prison soon, and said his crime was “not violent” and did not cause “bodily harm”.
The TV star also said the striker’s 19-year-old victim had “far too much to drink” prior to the “unpleasant” attack in a hotel room.
Northumbria police and crime commissioner Vera Baird, who campaigns about violence against women, said: “He raped her - that is a serious injury and undermines some people for life.
“Ms Finnigan seems to have already forgotten the testimony of the teenage victims of Rolf Harris and others who have said in detail in their victim impact statements how their lives had been ruined.
“No bodily injury has little relevance, it doesn’t have to do physical damage to be rape and it is the essence of violence to force himself upon her.”
And about the victim being drunk, Ms Baird said: “What has this got to do with this if he forced himself upon her?
“If you get drunk and someone steals your wallet, does this mean it’s any less of a theft than if you were sober?”
The programme panellists were discussing whether football should accept Evans back once he is freed.
Ms Baird said: “He has to work somewhere but it probably shouldn’t be in such a public role since it looks like he’s being given a platform for approval.”
People on social media were furious with Ms Finnigan’s comments.
One wrote: “Can’t believe that Judy has just said on Loose Women it wasn’t a bad rape. Any rape is bad and wrong. Disgusting.”
Finnigan, who was making her debut on the show, released a statement afterwards, saying: “I apologise unreservedly for any offence that I may have caused as a result of the wording I used.
“I absolutely wasn’t suggesting that rape was anything other than an horrendous crime and, as I said on the programme, I was in no way attempting to minimise the terrible ordeal that any woman suffers as a result.
“The point I was attempting to raise as part of the debate was what should happen to someone after they have committed a crime and served their time?”