Sheffield United Footballer Rape Conviction Appeal 'Fast-Tracked'
19 October 2014, 09:39 | Updated: 30 March 2016, 13:50
Convicted rapist Ched Evans has said he is "ashamed'' of his actions - but expressed no remorse for his crime as he continues to protest his innocence.
The 25-year-old footballer, who was released from prison on Friday having served half of a five-year sentence for raping a woman in a hotel room, told the Sunday Mirror shortly before he was freed that cheating on his girlfriend was "unforgivable''.
But of the crime he was convicted of by a jury at Caernarfon Crown Court two years ago, he said:
"It was something that should never have happened. I cheated on my girlfriend and had sex with this girl - but it was definitely consensual.''
Spokeswoman for Rape Crisis charity Katie Russell told the paper the player's words are harmful and insulting to his victim, for whom she said he had never shown any regard.
The former Sheffield United player's release became a talking point last week as a debate raged over whether he should be allowed to return to football.
Many Blades fans have called for Evans to be rehabilitated but almost 150,000 people have signed an online petition urging the Bramall Lane club not to welcome him back.
TV presenter Judy Finnigan sparked controversy by claiming his 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.
Evans was jailed in April 2012 for the rape in Rhyl, North Wales.
The footballer admitted having sex with the woman but she told the jury she had no memory of the incident.
The prosecution said the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, 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.
An appeal against Evans' conviction was rejected by three judges at the Court of Appeal in 2012.
Evans' case is due to be reviewed by the Criminal Case Review Commission in the coming weeks.
Yesterday Sheffield United dismissed reports that the club have offered a new contract to convicted rapist Ched Evans as "false and damaging''.
In a statement, the club dismissed the report as ``speculative'' media coverage, adding:
"An article in The Sun (on Saturday) that Sheffield United has offered a contract to former player Ched Evans is false and damaging to the club.
We have made a statement on this matter previously and the lack of credibility and substance from this latest media report does not warrant any expansion from previous comments apart from noting that we are continuing to deliberate on any long-term decision about Ched Evans.''
TV presenter and Sheffield United patron Charlie Webster, who revealed in an interview earlier this year she was sexually assaulted as a teenager, said she will quit her role with the club if they re-sign Evans.
"You will have young people cheering him on when he scores a goal. Not under my name, under my club or community.
He says he is innocent, he has shown no remorse.''
She was immediately branded a "hypocrite'' by Evans' sister Kylie, who retweeted a message in which the sports presenter posted last month saying she wanted to get a photograph of former heavyweight boxing champion and convicted rapist Mike Tyson.
He was convicted of rape in 1992 after an incident the previous year and subsequently served three years of a six-year sentence.
Miss Webster, 31, later said she was now "not proud of'' her Tyson tweet.
Evans' girlfriend, Natasha Massey, has led a campaign to have his conviction overturned.
The Criminal Cases Review Commission has said it is to begin investigating the Evans case "within the next few weeks''.
A spokesman for the body, which reviews possible miscarriages of justice and has the power to refer cases to the Court of Appeal, told the Observer newspaper that representations had been made by the footballer's legal team to prioritise the case.
He told the paper that after the request "in line with our published policy on prioritisation, and in relation to the facts of the case and the issues raised in Mr Evans's application to us ... we now expect our substantive investigation to begin within the next few weeks''.
He added that the decision to fast-track the case had no bearing on whether it may be referred to the appeal courts.