HULL City boss Steve Bruce ran into criticism yesterday for suggesting a jury may have got it wrong over the conviction of Ched Evans.
Bruce, who admitted to being one of three Premier League managers spoken to by Oldham Athletic chairman Simon Corney during this week’s furore, said there was a question over the rape and “how he had been convicted by a jury.”
His words immediately provoked a flood of negative comment on social networking sites.
Hull East MP Karl Turner, a former criminal lawyer, said Karl Turner said: “It is disappointing that Steve Bruce has taken it up on himself to question the safety of the rape conviction in the Ched Evans case and seemingly criticise the verdict of the court. The jury convicted Evans unanimously after considering the evidence and the facts presented to them during the trial.
“People will be upset that Steve Bruce makes no mention whatsoever about the victim in this case. Rape is a disgusting, violent crime and the victim in this case will live with it for the rest of her life. “
Hull councillor Phil Webster, a former foreman of a jury, said the remarks were ill-advised: “You don’t take decisions lightly when you are on a jury because it is peoples’ liberty you are playing with. Steve Bruce should not be sat in his armchair criticising a jury which has come to a decision based on facts he knows nothing of. He can’t have sat through every day of that trial and all the members of a jury have to sit through every day.
“The damage that has already been done to this girl on social media is unacceptable. People need to remember there is a victim and Ched Evans legally is the perpetrator.”
The League One club said pressure from sponsors and death threats had caused them to abandon plans to sign Evans.
Bruce told a Press conference that Corney “was of the opinion to give the kid a chance.”
He added: “I can only say on behalf of myself - and I know I might be upsetting people - but there is a question of the rape and how he has been convicted by a jury. When you look at the evidence, it is there for appeal.”
Evans was released from jail in October after serving half a five-year sentence for raping a woman in 2011. An appeal against the conviction was rejected by the Court of Appeal in 2012 and the case is currently being considered by the Criminal Cases Review Commission.
Yesterday’s remarks came as the head of the footballers’ union Gordon Taylor apologised after comparing the controversy to the Hillsborough disaster, in which 96 Liverpool fans died. He compared what was said to have happened at Hillsborough to what was coming out now and said Evans “would not be the first person or persons to have been found guilty and maintained their innocence and then been proved right.”
Amid widespread criticism he returned to the airwaves to apologise, telling BBC Radio Merseyside: “The last thing I intended to do was to upset anybody connected to the Hillsborough case.”
Professor Phil Scraton, primary author of the Hillsborough independent panel report, said of the initial comments: “To conflate this with the institutional failings and demonstrable injustices (of Hillsborough) is crass, it’s insensitive and it’s inappropriate.” Evans, 26, who continues to maintain his innocence, has apologised publicly for the first time for “the effects” of the night in the hotel. But he blamed the “mob rule tactics” for scuppering his planned return to football.