Ched Evans: Professional Footballers' Association of Ireland defends convicted rapist and describes Evans' crime as 'alleged'

Former Sheffield United striker Evans served half of a five-year sentence in jail after being found guilty of rape in 2012

The Professional Footballers' Association of Ireland has come to the defence of convicted rapist and former Sheffield United footballer Ched Evans, suggesting that he could be innocent and that, even if guilty, he deserves a chance of redemption.

The association's solicitor Stuart Gilhooly wrote an article on its website that refers to Evans' crime as alleged, despite the fact he was found guilty in court in April 2012 of raping a 19-year-old woman in a hotel room in Rhyl, North Wales and sentenced to five years in prison.

Evans was released from prison last month after serving half of his sentence and Gilhooly believes that he deserves another chance.

Gilhooly wrote: "This crime, as alleged, was at the bottom end. There was no violence and thankfully the victim has no recollection of it. This, I hasten to add, does not make it right, or anything close to it, but it is nonetheless a mitigating factor."

He added: "It's not easy to muster up too much sympathy for Evans but there is surely nothing worse than being accused of a crime which you genuinely believe you didn't commit.

"The argument against that is that a jury convicted him of the crime. The same applied to the Guildford Four and the Birmingham Six. They got no public sympathy either.

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Charlie Webster resigned from her role as patron of Sheffield United

"Maybe he is guilty or perhaps he's innocent, none of us knows for sure. Surely, either way, he deserves a chance at redemption. Don't we all?"

Gilhooly's comments come in the wake of musician Paul Heaton's resignation as a patron of Sheffield United's Community Foundation over the club's decision to allow Evans to train with the club. TV presenter Charlie Webster, sixties pop star Dave Berry and Sheffield businesswoman Lindsay Graham have all resigned as patrons of the club since Evans returned to training.

Olympic athlete Jessica Ennis-Hill asked for her name to removed from a stand at the club's Bramall Lane ground if Evans returns full-time.

PA