The former Sheffield United and Wales footballer Ched Evans is resigned to not returning to the game until the 2016-17 season, with no decision imminent from the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), which is examining his rape conviction.
Despite speculation that the CCRC, which investigates potential miscarriages of justice, might be about to pronounce on his case, that is not thought likely before Easter. The CCRC will either refer Evans’ trial to the Court of Appeal, where he must hope a three-judge panel overturns his conviction, or will reject his claims of injustice, with a third possibility being a request for more time to consider the application.
The 26-year-old was convicted at Caernarfon Crown Court, in April 2012, of raping a woman in a Rhyl hotel room, and although he admitted having sex, he has always said it was consensual. He was released last October, having served half his five-year sentence. His subsequent attempts to join Sheffield United and Oldham Athletic created huge controversy.
This case has been under review by the CCRC since July but was fast-tracked in the autumn. It is understood Evans’ legal team submitted fresh evidence in support of his claim of innocence last month.
The importance being attached to the CCRC case by Evans’ extended family was underlined by their reluctance in January to allow the Professional Footballers’ Association to release a statement it had prepared with the player. They believed that might have prejudiced a case in which the judges are expected to be asked, among other issues, to examine whether Evans was legally cautioned before discussing the case with police.
Evans’ lawyer Shaun Draycott said: “We feel it is a strong case. I remain deeply concerned about the conviction and we are hopeful his application will lead to a referral. It is very detailed.”
If the case is not referred, Evans may have to wait to seek a club until the end of his sentence in April 2017. But he is thought to have doubts about getting back into domestic football after that time.