Sheffield United and Wales’ striker Ched Evans was jailed for five years today after being convicted of raping a woman who was “too drunk to consent” to sex.
The 23-year-old footballer, who has scored 35 times this season for the League One club, is now considering an appeal against the jury’s verdict at Caernarfon Crown Court where his co-defendant, Port Vale defender Clayton McDonald, was found not guilty of the same charge.
Both men admitted they had sex with the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, but the prosecution said she was too drunk to consent to sexual intercourse.
In her evidence, the woman said she has no memory of the incident.
Evans’s lawyers said the footballer was “shocked and extremely disappointed”.
“Mr Evans firmly maintains his innocence in this matter and is being advised regarding an appeal of the decision,” they added in a statement.
The Football Association of Wales said it “recognised the seriousness of the situation”.
Mr McDonald, also 23, vowed to stand by his friend, saying in a statement from his legal team: “Clayton McDonald has maintained his innocence from the start and is relieved at his verdict.
“However, he is very upset and disappointed regarding the verdict given to his lifelong friend, Ched Evans, whom he will continue to support in any way possible.”
The two footballers first met 10 years ago when they were both at the Manchester City youth academy and shared digs during their teenage years.
The incident happened at a Premier Inn near Rhyl after they had been on a night out in the seaside town on May 29.
The trial, which began on April 11, was told Mr McDonald met the woman on the street after visiting a takeaway in the early hours of the next morning.
He took her back to the hotel where they had sex and were joined by Evans, who also had intercourse with the woman.
The jury was told that as the incident took place, Jack Higgins, an “associate” of the footballers, and Ryan Roberts, Evans’s brother, watched through a window.
Video recordings found on Mr Higgins’s phone showed he had been filming or trying to film the incident, the court heard.
Mr McDonald claimed that Evans asked if he could get involved, while Evans said it was Mr McDonald who asked him if he wanted to have sex with the woman.
Giving evidence Mr McDonald said the woman was “moaning and groaning like she was enjoying herself”.
Evans told the jury she consented and was “in control of her actions”.
Sentencing Evans, Judge Merfyn Hughes QC said: “The complainant was 19 years of age and was extremely intoxicated.
“CCTV footage shows, in my view, the extent of her intoxication when she stumbled into your friend.
“As the jury have found, she was in no condition to have sexual intercourse.
“When you arrived at the hotel, you must have realised that.
“You have thrown away the successful career in which you were involved.”
He told Evans he must serve at least half the five-year sentence before he can be paroled.
David Fish QC, in mitigation for Evans, said it was a “sad day” for the footballer.
“He is aged 23 and has, until now, had a promising career to which he has devoted his whole life since his teens,” he said.
“That career has now been lost.”
Earlier there were chaotic scenes and Evans’s verdict was delayed after court proceedings were disrupted when McDonald was acquitted, prompting a brief adjournment.
The jury first returned a not-guilty verdict on Mr McDonald after four hours and 52 minutes of deliberations.
He looked elated as the verdict was read out and his family and friends in the public gallery reacted by shouting “Yes, yes”.
One man left the courtroom and could be heard screaming.
Judge Hughes then rose and everyone in the public gallery was ordered to leave the court.
Mr McDonald remained in the dock with Evans who held his head in his hands and cried hysterically.
When the judge returned to court, the jury foreman gave the guilty verdict against Evans, who threw the headphones he was using to follow the trial on the floor and looked shocked.
Judge Hughes told Mr McDonald he was free to leave the dock and after the footballer exited the court, shouts of “No, no” could be heard from Evans’s family and friends.
Detective Chief Inspector Steve Williams, the senior investigating officer for North Wales Police, said: “I would like to pay tribute to the courage of the victim in this case, who has shown a great deal of resilience and strength in very difficult circumstances.
“I sincerely hope that the guilty verdict will provide some closure on this horrendous ordeal for the victim and that she will be able to rebuild her life which was shattered by these events.”