Rugby star Max Evans cleared of club attack


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The Independent Online

Scotland rugby international Max Evans was back at training today after being cleared of assaulting a man at a nightclub.

The 28-year-old former Glasgow Warriors player was accused of striking Alasdair McCaig with a glass to his severe injury and permanent impairment at Edinburgh's Lulu nightclub on August 1 2010.

Evans denied the charge and said he had acted in self-defence after being punched by the 29-year-old.

A jury of nine women and six men took less than an hour to return a verdict of not guilty after a five-day trial at Edinburgh Sheriff Court.

Evans smiled and shook hands with those who had come to court with him today and, outside court, he told reporters: "I'm obviously just very pleased and appreciate the jury's verdict."

Evans was accompanied at court by his girlfriend, 23-year-old actress Katy Johnson, who said she was "pleased" and "very happy" following the verdict.

In a statement released tonight, Evans said: "It's been a challenging time for me and my family and friends, and I would like to thank everyone who has been supportive over the recent weeks and months.

"I would also like to thank the jury for their diligence in reaching their verdict.

"I will now put this behind me and be very focused on my rugby. It's great to be back in the Scotland camp today with the players, coaches and management."

Evans is part of Scotland's Six Nations squad. The Scottish Rugby Union confirmed today the winger is back in contention to play in this weekend's game against Ireland after missing the team's last match against France because of an ankle injury.

During the trial, in front of Sheriff Elizabeth Jarvie, property development worker Mr McCaig told the court he was drinking champagne with his sister and an old school friend at the bar of the club's VIP area when he was struck in the face with a "sharp blow", which left him bleeding.

However, the sportsman said he had simply reacted to defend himself after feeling "threatened" by Mr McCaig.

He said he was punched by Mr McCaig and thought he was "coming for me", and had not intended for a glass to be used in the fracas.

Evans told jurors he first became aware of Mr McCaig when he called out "something insulting".

He said the comment was: "Evans, what are you doing here? F*** off back to Glasgow."

The sportsman said he ignored the remark but that further "insulting comments" were directed at him for around 20 minutes, including a remark that he was a "faggot" and his brother "a pussy".

Evans, who was in the company of Sarah Jane Bell, a nanny, said they were interrupted by Mr McCaig as they made their way to the dance floor of the George Street venue.

He told the court: "He assaulted me with his right arm. It had enough force to feel like a punch. Enough for me to feel threatened by it. I thought he was coming for me. I thought he'd attack me."

Evans said he used his left arm to push him away, in an instantaneous move "to defend myself, to get him away from me".

He told how he had not realised he had a champagne glass in his hand at the time, which broke easily.

Evans said he was "completely shocked" and "upset" by what happened, and it had never been his intention to hit Mr McCaig with the glass.

Mr McCaig, who claimed he had not known who Evans was at the time, denied lashing out at the rugby star but accepted it was possible his injury was a result of his "behaviour", starting off with "verbal insults".

He was treated at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh for a laceration to his eyebrow, which a doctor described as being "entirely superficial", the court was told.

The prosecution claimed a "red mist" had descended on Evans during the nightclub incident and argued no other witness was able to support Evans' assertion that he had been punched first by Mr McCaig.

But Evans' legal team argued Mr McCaig, the prosecution's "star witness", was "manifestly incredible and unreliable".

Evans, who now plays for French side Castres, has about 25 caps for his country and has also played for London teams Harlequins and London Scottish.

Giving evidence at the trial, he broke down in court as he recalled how his brother suffered a life-threatening injury during an international game.

He appeared upset and had to sit down after telling the jury that his younger brother Thom, who also played rugby for Scotland, broke his neck in a 2010 match against Wales.