The footballer Ched Evans was found not guilty today at his retrial of raping a 19-year-old woman in a hotel room.
The Chesterfield striker’s conviction was quashed after judges let the complainant’s former partners give evidence about her sex life.
Evans, who has also played for Wales and Sheffield United, was accused of attacking the woman at a Premier Inn in Rhuddlan, Denbighshire, on 30 May 2011, after a drunken night out with former club mates.
He has always denied having sex with the alleged victim while she was too drunk to consent.
He insisted she agreed to let him “join in” while she was having consensual sex with fellow footballer Clayton McDonald, 27 – who was cleared of rape at the original trial – after a night out in Rhyl.
Evans’ legal team argued the prosecution was “built around the myth” that the complainant was too drunk to agree to sex.
The prosecution alleged the woman did “not have the freedom or capacity to consent”.
Evans, 27, was originally found guilty of rape in 2012 and spent two and half years behind bars. He always maintained his innocence and a retrial was ordered in April, after his conviction was overrturned by the appeal court.
That decision followed a high-profile campaign run by his family and friends that included the offer of a £50,000 reward for the information that led to his acquittal.
Today, the jury at Cardiff Crown Court took two hours to acquit Evans. He kept his head down as the male foreman of the jury returned the unanimous verdict. He then reportedly rushed from the dock into the arms of his girlfriend Natasha Massey.
As the dramatic scenes unfolded in the courtroom, the judge thanked the jury and the barristers. “This case has been conducted out in the public gaze,” she said.
The appeal was allowed to go ahead after the rare decision by the judges to allow two former sexual partners of the alleged victim to give explicit evidence in court about her sex life. This move has received widespread criticism from women’s support groups and campaigns. One group, Women Against Rape (WAR) told the Guardian the decision could stop other women coming forward in similar cases and that it “drove a coach and horses” through legislation designed to protect victims of sexual abuse.