Wales footballer Ched Evans found not guilty of raping teenager

Evans spent 2½ years in prison for rape, but his original conviction was quashed

Ched Evans and his partner Natasha Massey at Cardiff Crown Court. Photograph: Ben Birchall/PA

Ched Evans and his partner Natasha Massey at Cardiff Crown Court. Photograph: Ben Birchall/PA

 

The international footballer Ched Evans has been found not guilty at his retrial of raping a 19-year-old waitress in a hotel room after a drunken night out with former club-mates.

Evans spent 2½ years in prison for rape, but his original conviction was quashed by the appeal court following a high-profile and well-funded campaign by family and friends that included the offer of a £50,000 reward for information leading to his acquittal.

The appeal was allowed after judges gave the go-ahead for two former sexual partners of the alleged victim to give explicit evidence in court about her sex life, a rare move that is being widely condemned by women’s support groups and campaigners.

One group, Women Against Rape (WAR), told the Guardian the decision “drove a coach and horses” through legislation designed to protect victims and could stop other abused women coming forward for fear they would be quizzed about their sex lives.

It can now be revealed that:

During the appeal case that led to the retrial, lawyers for the crown suggested the two new witnesses may have been “fed” information by those close to Evans. This claim was rejected by Evans’s side.

Evans’s fiancee, Natasha Massey, was accused in legal argument during the second trial of offering an “inducement” to a key witness. The prosecution said this had “the flavour of a bribe”. The trial judge disagreed with this description.

The appeal court judges, whose decision can be reported for the first time, expressed “a considerable degree of hesitation” before allowing in the new evidence of the former partners because it resulted in the victim’s sexual behaviour being subject to forensic scrutiny – which is almost always banned.

The complainant continues to be named and abused on social media though the law gives her lifelong anonymity. The police are investigating one blog that identified her during the trial.

The woman told the jury she woke up naked in a hotel room in Rhyl, north Wales, in May 2011 with no memory of what had happened but fearing she had been attacked after her drinks were spiked.

Evans, who has played for Manchester City, Sheffield United and Wales, insisted he and his friend and fellow footballer Clayton McDonald had consensual sex with the woman.

He told the jury McDonald was having sex with her when he walked into the hotel room. He claimed the pair looked at him and McDonald asked the woman: “Can my mate join in?”

Evans said the woman replied: “Yes.”

The prosecution said she could not possibly have consented to sex as she was too intoxicated.

In court, Evans admitted he lied to get the key for the hotel room and did not speak to her before, during or after sex. He left via a fire exit. It also emerged that Evans’s younger brother and another man were trying to film what was happening from outside the room.

Friends of the woman encouraged her to go to the police to report how she had woken up with no memory of what happened to her, believing her drinks had been spiked. She went to a police station and officers found out that the room she woke up had been booked and paid for by Evans. He was questioned by police and admitted he had sex with her – but claimed it was consensual.

Boasted

When he was interviewed by police Evans boasted that he and McDonald could have had any woman they wanted in the club that night. “Footballers are rich and they have money,” he said. “That is what girls like.”

Lisa Longstaff, of WAR, said the case seemed a “throwback to another time”.

She said: “The whole way the case has been handled trivialises rape and puts women off reporting. They know that if they come forward they are going to be trashed.”

Section 41 of the Youth and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 puts stringent restrictions on what evidence can be put before a court by the defence about an alleged victim’s sexual behaviour and questioning of the complainant.

“But it has all these exceptions, and clever lawyers can get round it,” said Ms Longstaff. “Here they’ve driven a coach and horses through the supposed protection. It’s a classic defence tactic. They bring in previous partners to trash her character.”

She added: “This trial has been a throwback to bad times when women were the ones on trial and had no say in a sexual encounter.”

A feminist activist who goes by the pseudonym Jean Hatchet and was behind petitions asking football clubs not to sign Evans following his jail term, said it was “deeply worrying” that evidence about a victim’s sexual history had been permitted.

She said: “This has no bearing on whether a woman was consenting to a totally different sexual experience at all.

“More worryingly, this will set precedent in rape cases to follow where defence barristers will comb through an alleged victim’s sexual past and following the alleged assault at a time when they are suffering trauma. Women who have been raped have sex before they are raped and they have sex afterwards.

“Many victims and survivors of rape have followed this case from the original arrest and many more in the intervening years. They have been hanging on every word.”

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