Campaigners have threatened to lodge an official complaint about a decision by the judge at Ched Evans’s retrial to allow jurors to hear about the sexual past of the footballer’s accuser.
The former Sheffield United striker said he was 'overwhelmed with relief' at having been found not guilty of raping a 19-year-old waitress in a hotel room in 2011.
But women’s groups questioned why evidence of the woman’s past sexual behaviour was deemed admissible by Lady Justice Hallett and said her decision could deter complainants from coming forward in future.
Jurors at the two week retrial in Cardiff heard new evidence from two men who had sex with Evans’s accuser in around May 2011. Both described how she had taken the lead and asked them to 'go harder' and their accounts of her apparent sexual preferences were similar to the description Evans had given in his evidence.
This, the footballer’s lawyers argued, supported his assertion that the teenager was freely consenting to her sexual encounter with him in the early hours of the morning on May 30, 2011, in a Premier Inn hotel room near Rhyl.
Complainants’ sexual histories are not normally put before a juries in rape trials, but judge Lady Justice Hallett ruled that Evans’s was a 'rare' case where this was admissible evidence because of the defendant’s right to a fair trial.
Rachel Krys from the End Violence Against Women Coalition said she was 'very concerned at the precedent which might have been set' by the decision.
Rules normally preventing such evidence from being heard were 'critical in trying to secure justice in rape cases', she said.
She added: “We will review the case in full and may contact the Crown Prosecution Service and the government about aspects of this case which raise concern.”
Campaign group Women Against Rape echoed the warning, saying the decision to admit 'irrelevant' evidence had set a 'dangerous precedent'.
In a statement the group said it would 'open the floodgates to trashing the woman’s character in any rape trial'.
It added: “The trial should not be about who she slept with in the past, but whether she consented on that occasion. Was she capable of consent?”
Campaigners have described as akin to 'bribery' a £50,000 reward for information publicised by supporters of Evans during his well funded campaign to clear his name.
His acquittal clears the way for him to apply for the maximum £500,000 in government compensation that is available to miscarriage of justice victims – although experts last night cautioned that any such bid would be highly likely to fail.
Steven Bird, managing director of Birds Solicitors, told said such compensation wins had become 'extremely rare'.
He added: “In a way I hope Ched Evans goes for it, because I don’t think the public necessarily realises that people who are victims of miscarriages of justice are victims, and they should be entitled to some sort of compensation – the state has prosecuted them and imprisoned them for something they haven’t done.”
Sporting pariah Evans served half of a five year prison sentence following his original conviction in 2012.
When he was released on licence, his old club, Sheffield United, decided not to re-sign him.
He was then approached by Oldham Athletic, but they too pulled out of a deal amid a public outcry and threats from sponsors. His conviction was later quashed at the Court of Appeal, and a retrial was ordered.
The 27-year-old, who now plays for League One club Chesterfield FC, embraced his fiancee Natasha Massey and wept as he was told he was free to leave the court after the verdict.
In a statement afterwards he said: “In the early hours of 30 May 2011, an incident occurred in north Wales that was to change my life and the lives of others forever. That incident did not involve the commission of a criminal offence and today I am overwhelmed with relief that the jury agreed.”
The case hinged on whether or not the woman who made the allegation had been too drunk to give consent on the night in question.
Evans insisted the teenager agreed to let him 'join' a sexual encounter with fellow footballer Clayton McDonald – who was cleared of rape at the original trial – in the hotel in the early hours of the morning.
He admitted cheating on Ms Massey and taking part in a threesome but has always maintained he was innocent of any crime.
Superintendent Jo Williams, of North Wales Police, said the force was aware the at the complainant in the case had been named on social media, adding that this was a criminal offence under Section Five of the Sexual Offences Amendments Act.
The force said an investigation into this was ongoing.