LONDON, Oct 5, (AFP): British footballer Ched Evans’ conviction for rape has been referred to Britain’s Court of Appeal, a body that investigates alleged miscarriages of justice announced on Monday. The former Wales striker, who maintains his innocence, was released from prison last year after serving half of a five-year sentence for raping a 19-year-old woman in a north Wales hotel room in May 2011.
Evans, 26, subsequently saw an attempt to resurrect his career with English third-tier club Oldham Athletic collapse amid a public outcry, but new evidence that could have supported his defence has since been unearthed by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC).
The CCRC, which probes potential miscarriages of justice in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, said there was “a real possibility that the Court of Appeal may now quash the conviction”.
Evans was jailed in April 2012 and saw an initial appeal against his conviction rejected by three judges at the Court of Appeal later that year.
News that he was in talks to join Oldham following his release sparked a furious local response, with pressure from fans and sponsors forcing the club to pull out of the deal.
Evans’ family and girlfriend, Natasha Massey, who have set up a website campaigning for his conviction to be overturned, welcomed news of the referral.
“Ched and those who closely support him have always maintained that he was wrongly convicted and, using new information that was not presented at his trial, we expect that in time his conviction will be quashed,” they said in a statement on the website.
“The decision to refer Ched’s case is welcomed by all who know the true facts and Ched would like to thank all those who have supported him since his conviction in April 2012 and his subsequent release from prison in October 2014.”
Evans came through the youth ranks at Manchester City and after a loan spell at Norwich City, he joined Sheffield United in 2009 for a fee of £3 million ($4.6 million, 4.1 million euros).
He scored 48 goals in 113 games for Sheffield United and has made 13 appearances for Wales, scoring once.