The Criminal Case Review Commission (CCRC) has referred footballer Ched Evans’s rape conviction to the Court of Appeal.
Here are the some of the questions that have emerged from the case:
1. What were the circumstances that led to Evans being arrested and then convicted of rape?
The footballer was convicted of a raping a 19-year-old woman in a hotel room in Rhyl, North Wales. Evans admitted having sex with the woman but said it was consensual. The victim told the jury she had no memory of the incident. The prosecution said the woman was too drunk to consent to sexual intercourse. Port Vale defender Clayton McDonald also admitted having sex with the victim but was found not guilty of the same charge.
2. What is the new information that the CCRC says has prompted its referral to the Court of Appeal?
We do not know. The commission said it has set out its reasoning in a 49-page document but said this would not be published. The document will be provided to Evans’s lawyers, the court and other parties.
3. What is the basis on which Evans and his supporters have challenged the conviction?
Evans’ supporters have questioned how the jury could have found him guilty but acquitted Clayton McDonald, who also had sex with the woman. They have also pointed out that the victim did not make any complaint to the police about being raped and the only way police knew sexual intercourse took place was from the footballer’s own testimony and the evidence of a hotel porter who was listening outside the room. Evans’ team have also questioned the legal basis of the conviction in relation to question of whether a woman can consent when drunk.
4. Why is the question of intoxication and consent central to this case?
The prosecution case was that the woman was too drunk to consent to sex. Evans’ supporters have questioned whether the law was applied correctly and have referred to a standard test case, called R -v- Bree (2007), in which the Court of Appeal established that someone can still consent to sex even if they have consumed substantial quantities of alcohol.
5. Why has the case attracted such a high profile?
Any case involving a professional footballer will inevitably attract a lot of attention but the centrality of the question of intoxication and consent in this one has tapped into a wider public debate about rape. A number of public figures have found themselves in the spotlight when commenting on the Evans case.
BBC veteran Michael Buerk caused outrage in a trailer for Radio 4 discussion show Moral Maze, debating the rehabilitation of criminals, when he said neither Evans nor the complainant emerged ‘with any credit’ because she was so intoxicated ‘she could barely stand’.
And TV presenter Judy Finnigan sparked controversy by claiming Evans’ crime was ‘non violent’ and did not cause ‘bodily harm’ during a panel discussion on ITV’s Loose Women. Her comments caused a wave of criticism, abuse on social media and also sparked threats against her daughter, fitness instructor Chloe, wishing rape on her.
Hull City manager Steve Bruce was also criticised for questioning Evans’ conviction at a press conference.
6. Why has social media been such an important factor in the fall-out from the case?
More than just about any other recent criminal case, this one has highlighted the problem of Twitter and Facebook users identifying the victims of sexual offences. Police investigated a number of complaints that the woman had been identified on social media and 10 people were eventually convicted and forced to pay hundreds of pounds of compensation to the woman.
The victim was also subjected to trolling on social media and her father told a newspaper his daughter had been forced to change her name and move house five times because of malicious trolling.
7. What happens next in the Court of Appeal?
The court has no choice but to hear a full appeal. Normally a defendant has to apply for leave to appeal but, as this has been referred by the CCRC, this stage is not needed. It could take some time for the case to come before the panel of judges in The Strand, in London. They will then have three options. The judges can uphold the conviction, they can simply quash the conviction or they can quash the conviction and order a retrial. The retrial route in unlikely in a case like this when Evans has already served his sentence.
8. Can Evans return to professional football?
There is no legal reason why Evans cannot play football again. His attempts to find a club, though, have so far, been halted by vigorous campaigns by supporters, action groups and sponsors. Evans now appears to be waiting for the outcome of his fresh appeal. Whether, if his conviction his quashed, he will find more clubs willing to welcome him, remains to be seen.