Ched Evans has been released from prison this week after serving half of his five-year sentence for rape. The former Sheffield United player has always claimed his innocence, insisting that the sex with the 19-year-old girl was consensual.
Evans' friend, Clayton McDonald, had also been charged with rape but was found not guilty.
The pair had met during their time as youth players at Manchester City and McDonald had gone to stay with Evans in Rhyl. McDonald had met a girl outside a kebab shop and travelled back with her to the Premier Inn where he was staying. He let Evans know by text that he had "got a bird", so Evans made the fateful decision of following the couple to the hotel in another taxi.
Evans claims that when he arrived at the room and let himself in, McDonald was already having sex with the girl and he asked could he join in. McDonald then left and the players’ friends were standing outside the window watching and attempted to record the incident on their mobile phone.
The following day, the girl claimed she had no memory of anything that had happened after being in a takeaway and had no recollection of how she got to the Premier Inn. She had woken up alone in the morning, with Evans admitting he left through the fire escape shortly after having sex with her, and her clothes were scattered on the floor.
Because the girl had willingly got in to the taxi with Clayton and had spent enough time with him alone, it was deemed by the jury that consent had been given. The same could not be said of Evans though, who hadn’t spoken to her until arriving at the hotel, which was after the point that the hotel porter had stated at the trial she was intoxicated.
Since his conviction, Evans’ girlfriend, who he cheated on that evening, has stood by him. Her father has funded a campaign and website which aims to clear his name and present the “facts” of the case.
As Judy Finnigan proved this week though, during her disastrous appearance on Loose Women, there seems to be confusion over what constitutes as rape. This certainly seems to be the case for Evans and his supporters. “The rape was not violent,” she said. “He didn't cause any bodily harm to the person.” She also claimed the girl had “far too much to drink.”
Whilst Finnigan was clumsy in her explanation and foolish to try and debate a point so intricate and delicate on a stage as banal as Loose Women, you can understand what she is trying to get at. Violently raping someone with the use of threats or weapons is different to what Evans has been found guilty of, but the implication that there are “good rapes” and “bad rapes” is ridiculous and insulting.
The girl was too drunk to give consent. Whether Evans forced himself on her, caused bodily harm or held her down is entirely irrelevant. By the definition of the law he raped her, as a girl does not need to be unconscious through alcohol to have reached a point where she no longer has the capacity to give consent.
The conviction has lead to plenty of debate, not just amongst football fans, with lots of people supporting his claim of innocence. How is a man supposed to know whether a girl is too drunk to consent to sex or not?
Evans thinks he is innocent because he claims he didn’t know or think she was “extremely intoxicated” and therefore unable to give him consent to have sex with her. There seems to be an incorrect assumption amongst some people that it is the girl’s responsibility not to get really drunk, rather than the boy’s responsibility not to have sex with someone who is really drunk.
Evans’ mother, Helen Roberts, thinks this is an issue for “the feminist gang” but it is an issue for her son and anyone else who is unaware of the law. Whether these people agree with the law or not is immaterial. Men need to know that what Evans did was wrong and if they did the same they too could rightly end up in prison.
But far too many people are unaware of the facts or, more alarmingly, are completely familiar with them but simply don’t understand why Evans was in the wrong.
During Sheffield United’s win over Bradford yesterday, chants of “Super Chedwyn Evans” could be heard from the terraces. A Welsh flag with his name scrawled on it was hung from the stands. At Bradford Forster Squad station a group of supporters sang: “he’ll do what he wants, he’ll do what he wants, Chedwyn Evans, he’ll do what he wants.”
Of course, Evans is no longer a Sheffield United player, but the club has confessed they are “continuing to deliberate” on whether they will offer him a new contract or not.
The club paid £3 million for Evans in 2009, which is hefty sum when you consider that their record transfer signing is James Beattie at £4 million.
David Fish QC, who was defending Evans, claimed it was a "sad day" for his client and that his “career has now been lost." Judge Merfyn Hughes QC told Evans: "you have thrown away the successful career in which you were involved."
However, Sheffield United know that neither of these statements are true, and that if they don’t offer Evans a contract, another club will. Evans’ career isn’t over. At 25, he has plenty of years ahead of him and, after scoring 35 goals in 42 games in his final season before going to prison, he will be a ‘bargain’ for one club or another.
This case stirs up the debate over whether a footballer should be allowed to return to the game after a rape conviction. People claim he has served his time and he isn’t the only footballer with a criminal record. Why should he be prevented from working after paying the price for his crime?
Quite simply, because there are plenty of professions that wouldn’t welcome someone back after serving time in prison for rape. Should playing football be one of them?
Football isn’t the only job Evans is capable of, so after spending two and a half years in prison, why can’t he earn his money elsewhere? No, it almost certainly won’t pay him the £20,000-a-week that Sheffield United were, but then maybe that will serve as a reminder to not rape people again in the future.
Whether we like it or not, footballers do act as role models to young people in this country. I’ve seen people claiming that they are the ones, as parents, who instil morals in their children, not footballers, and that is great. But the same can’t be said of all parents, and even those that do, can’t shield their kids from hero-worship.
Think of the young lads who support Sheffield United, or whichever club Evans ends up at, watching him bang in goals most weeks. He is their hero and the fact he has shown no remorse and continues to insist that he did nothing wrong is a huge concern. You just need to look at the behaviour of Sheffield United fans on Saturday to see just how much football fans are prepared to forgive or ignore.
Having been let out of prison, he supposedly poses no threat to the community, but how can an unapologetic rapist being held up as a hero for youngsters not threaten our society?
Out of interest, the girl who he raped now lives under a different name, with a brand new identity in a different town. After being named as Evans’ victim on the Internet, she was on the receiving end of so much abuse that she was forced to leave her home and start again. Evans’ Sheffield United team-mate Connor Brown was amongst the abusers, calling her a “slag” and “money grabbing little tramp.”
Yet people claim Evans has served his time, so it’s only fair that he goes back to his old life as though nothing happened, even if his victim can’t. Chedwyn Evans, he’ll do what he wants.