Ched Evans' fans continue to defend him, but would they do the same for a rapist cab driver?

The saga has revealed how far people are willing to go to stand up for someone famous, even if they've committed hideous crimes

Should the rapist Ched Evans return to his football career? We asked two writers with two very different opinions to give us their views. Here, Grace Dent says no, he shouldn't. To read why Simon Kelner thinks otherwise, click here.

As many of us returned to work after the Christmas break, ready to jump forlornly back on the nine-to-five treadmill, it felt curiously fitting that Ched Evans, the depressing epitome of a man going nowhere fast, was back in the news. The footballer and convicted rapist was said, over the weekend, to be in talks to join League One club Oldham Athletic. Quite what the fine people of Oldham have done to deserve having their town dragged into this endless mire is unclear. Still, Oldham begins 2015 deemed as the sort of place that would welcome Evans – a man convicted of rape who denies the crime and instead believes he’s been very hard done by – into its fold.

Of course, it’s not only Evans who Oldham would pledge allegiance with, but also his grim little clique of supporters, namely the people behind the “Ched Evans was wrongly conviced of rape” website. The site is a 17-section-long breathtaking cornucopia of victim-blaming, slack-jawed posturing, appeals for information on the victim with which to dash her claim, plus added CCTV footage showing the seemingly damning evidence that the victim, pre-attack, could walk upright.

The victim, now stripped of anonymity via Twitter, lives effectively on the run. Her father has complained, reportedly, to the Attorney General about the website, yet still the site remains.

Oldham is now painted as the sort of place that sympathises with Evans’ “predicament”. And also the type of place that might warm to that laughable video by Evans’ girlfriend, Natasha Massey, where – with heartbreaking naivety – she recites her little speech claiming that, broadly speaking, they are the victims here. Natasha, the poor mite, has had to repair a romance with her lovely footballer boyfriend after – in a completely out-of-character way – he cheated on her.

In seriousness, I don’t for one moment believe the people of Oldham want anything to do with Evans and his clan’s moral swamp, but at least they can gain solace in the knowledge that, if the “talks” fall through, it will be somewhere else tarred with the same brush next week.

Because Evans, crucially, possesses some level of talent for kicking a football. That means that in numerous football club management offices throughout Britain, there are men in power who think: “Hang on. We can sign Evans for how little? And all we have to do is put up with feminists and lefties and newspaper columnists moaning at us about rape, and setting up online petitions and that sort of politically correct carry-on? Oh f*** that. We don’t care! The lad can kick a ball. Begin talks!”

Then, after several arduous hours of riding a whirlwind of dissent from the public pointing out that Evans doesn’t deserve “rehabilitation” or “another chance”, because he doesn’t believe he committed a crime, the club has distinct cold feet. Sponsors don’t want to be connected with a rapist. Women connected with the club are irked.

Interestingly, shortly after I last wrote about Evans following his release, a West Yorkshire taxi driver – Tamseel Virk – and three of his friends were sentenced for a total of 68 years for rape after an attack on a vulnerable and very drunken woman in Bradford. The case made temporary news headlines, but oddly I heard no one lamenting the end of Virk’s career as a minicab driver. Or say they want to help him drive again when freedom allowed. No one made an elaborate website trying to prove the victim was “up for it”, or posted CCTV footage as if to say: “Look, here she is walking upright! How can anyone who can walk upright be raped?”

It felt like in the case of the rapist minicab driver, the public felt that rape was rape and prison was just.

It’s a very curious message that football clubs transmit every time they begin “talks” with Ched Evans. It ignores, for example, the comments from the victim’s father who said this week: “It’s the fifth time she’s had to move in under three years, she is just living her life on the run.”

And of her festive holiday plans: “I couldn’t even see her over Christmas because it’s too risky for her to visit me. I don’t even know where she is living at the moment, so I haven’t been able to give her the Christmas presents I bought her.”

Football clubs might turn a blind eye to this, but I certainly won’t. You keep going into “talks”, Ched, I’ll keep pointing all of this out.

For legal reasons we are unable to publish comments on this piece