Ched Evans has said he cannot apologise directly for his actions and insisted although his behaviour was unacceptable he did not commit a crime.
The Chesterfield striker served two-and-a-half years of a five-year sentence in prison after being found guilty of raping a woman who was two-and-half-times over the drink-drive limit and deemed unable to consent by the jury.
His conviction was quashed in April on appeal due to new evidence found by private investigators hired by his family. After a two-week retrial, a jury at Cardiff Crown Court found him not guilty of rape on Friday after less than three hours of deliberation.
In the first interview he has given since the retrial, the 27-year-old said he was “young” and “stupid” at the time of his actions.
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“I have maintained my innocence from day one. So I can never apologise directly for what happened,” he told The Mail on Sunday.
“But I can apologise for the effect it's had. The social media stuff, I don't condone whatsoever. I don't agree with it. It's not been easy for her. I know that.”
“My behaviour that night was not acceptable – but it wasn't a crime,” he added.
After Mr Evans lost his first appeal four years ago, his family employed private investigators to gather new evidence. During the retrial, the jurors heard new evidence from two former sexual partners of the accuser.
It is rare for a complainant’s sexual history to be heard in trials involving sexual offences but Mr Evans’s legal team sought permission under Section 41 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act. Rape victims’ support groups expressed their shock at the decision to allow this, saying it risks deterring women from reporting rape for worry their sex lives would be publicly aired in court.
“When I went to prison, the people who are against me were happy the law was in order,” Mr Evans said. “But now, after going through the Court of Appeal and getting a not guilty verdict from a jury they are not happy with it.”
Mr Evans called for there to be more education for young players on issues surrounding alcohol, sexual consent and the law.
“I was young at the time and I was stupid and I wasn’t aware of the situations you could potentially find yourself in that would land you in trouble,” he said. “I have never been taught about anything like that. You get your gambling and drinking training but nothing else on top of that. In this day and age people need educating on alcohol and consent.”
“I read somewhere you would have to get signed consent. That wouldn’t be realistic but someone needs to come up with something. The best thing is just to be educated. And when they are drunk to think twice about it. How would it look in a court of law?”
Mr Evans said he expected he would get abuse from football fans and it would be difficult to ever fully escape his actions.
“There will be nothing hanging over me, nothing at the back of my mind. I don’t think I will ever get away from it even after being found innocent by a jury.”
The footballer said he was placed on the vulnerable wing in prison due to the fact officers said he risked being stabbed if placed elsewhere on the wing due to the profile and nature of the crime.
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