Sheffield's local newspaper criticised after marking ‘star letter’ a defence of Ched Evans

Editor, while not agreeing with letter, has defended the choice ‘as it is important people know that mindset it out there’

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The Independent Online

Sheffield’s The Star newspaper has been heavily criticised after a letter that defended Ched Evans and claimed he was being unfairly attacked by the media was chosen as the paper’s star contribution of the week.

In the controversial post Kiveton Blue describes the “media frenzy” as “nothing short of disgraceful”, suggesting that more attention should be focused on the “education of young women and the responsibility they have towards themselves when going out on the town.”

It comes as a BBC report claims Evans, who was convicted of raping a woman in 2011 and has served two and half years of a five-year sentence, has returned to training with his former club Sheffield United.

Evans has always protested his innocence, continuing to refuse to apologise to his victim, who has been forced to assume new identities after fans of Evans tracked her down.

Responding to the outcry editor James Mitchinson claimed on Twitter the letter was not victim blaming, but calling “for education for young people.”

He added: “I disagree entirely with the letter. I think it's important people know that mindset is out there, though!”

A spokesperson for End Violence Against Women said: "The 'Kiveton Blue' letter to the Sheffield Star is a sad reminder of the deep tendency to victim-blaming for rape in our culture."

She continued: "His scepticism about the amount of concern over the case then - more than 150,000 petition signers - also show the writer simply doesn't understand the level of alarm and anger across our society about rape and the failure to ensure justice for rape survivors.

"It's a strange choice of letter for the letters editor given that the argument is so weak, and victim-blaming, and insulting to many survivors of violence. Perhaps there are few letters to sift through in Ched's 'defence'. It is a reminder at least that many still hold victim-blaming views which need challenging."

The ‘Star Letter’ sticker on the top of the post has subsequently been removed.

Mr Mitchinson, who wrote a balanced review of the Evans case last week, claimed the star had been taken down in “case people don’t see the bigger picture we’ve worked so hard to portray!”

He also added that the star was “a piece of page template artwork carried to web, nothing more I'm afraid. It's been amended as I agree, it doesn't sit right.”

In the piece the reader writes the “message” given out by many young women “might have repercussions they could regret,” before continuing: “It is not a very good message to be sending out and indeed trivialises the ordeal of those women who are victims of domestic violence or by simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time are victims of violent sexual attack.

“These woman are deserving of all our sympathy.”

Tim Cotton, the journalist who handles the Star letters page, who said to Buzzfeed: “We’ve got to be quite even-handed in the coverage of the letters page.”

He added that although he agreed the letter was “strong”, “there have been letters from both sides that have had a lot of response. When football and social media come together, polarised positions come to the fore.”