PFAI removes article defending convicted rapist Ched Evans

Solicitor had likened footballer’s treatment to that of the Guildford Four and the Birmingham Six

File photograph of  Sheffield United and Wales striker Ched Evans arriving at Caernafon Crown Court in 2012. Photograph: PA

File photograph of Sheffield United and Wales striker Ched Evans arriving at Caernafon Crown Court in 2012. Photograph: PA

 

The Professional Footballers’ Association of Ireland has removed an article from its website by solicitor Stuart Gilhooly in which he defended convicted rapist Ched Evans, claiming the footballer could be innocent and deserved a chance of redemption.

Wales international Evans was jailed in April 2012 for raping a 19-year-old woman in a hotel room in Rhyl, North Wales. He was released from prison last month after serving half of the five-year sentence and has returned to training with Sheffield United.

The article on the website, written by Mr Gilhooly who works with the association, referred to Evans’ crime as alleged despite the fact he was found guilty in court .

Mr Gilhooly wrote: “This crime, as alleged, was at the bottom end. There was no violence and thankfully the victim has no recollection of it. This, I hasten to add, does not make it right, or anything close to it, but it is nonetheless a mitigating factor.

“It’s not easy to muster up too much sympathy for Evans but there is surely nothing worse than being accused of a crime which you genuinely believe you didn’t commit.

“The argument against that is that a jury convicted him of the crime. The same applied to the Guildford Four and the Birmingham Six. They got no public sympathy either.”

He added: “How can Evans apologise? He is convinced, and has a good argument, that he is not guilty of rape. If he apologised, then he is admitting a crime he feels he didn’t commit. Who would do that?

“But Ched Evans has served his time, whether he is innocent or guilty. He puts the ball in the net so eventually someone will take a chance on him.

“ If having sex with a drunk woman is rape then thousands of men are guilty of rape every day. The simple point is that degrees of intoxication are a very difficult concept for young men to grapple with when they themselves have had plenty to drink,” he wrote.

Yesterday, former Housemartins and Beautiful South frontman Paul Heaton resigned as a patron of Sheffield United’s Community Foundation over the club’s decision to allow Evans back to training.

The singer, who said he made the decision with “great regret”, said the club needed “to lift its reputation out of the gutter”.

TV presenter Charlie Webster, sixties pop star Dave Berry and Sheffield businesswoman Lindsay Graham have all resigned as patrons of the club since Evans returned to training.

Olympic athlete Jessica Ennis-Hill asked for her name to removed from a stand at the club’s Bramall Lane ground if Evans returns full-time.

Heaton said: “I would firstly like to salute the bravery of my fellow Blades and patrons in resigning their positions and in particular Charlie Webster, Jessica Ennis-Hill and Lindsay Graham, in standing up for victims of rape everywhere.

“I firmly believe that Ched Evans has the right to rebuild his career in football but rebuilding a career should not involve walking straight out of prison and into the shirt of the club he so badly let down.

“I believe he needs to move away and move on, and the club itself needs to lift its reputation out of the gutter.”

Heaton said he would donate his fee from this month’s Sheffield City Hall gig to the city’s rape crisis centre.

Campaigners against sexual violence have criticised the club’s decision to allow Evans (25) to train with the team.

The striker denied raping the woman, saying the sex was consensual, but he was found guilty by a jury at Caernarfon Crown Court.

An appeal against his conviction was rejected by three judges at the Court of Appeal in 2012. His case is due to be looked at by the Criminal Cases Review Commission.

Agencies

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