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New Evidence Allows Footballer Ched Evans To Appeal Rape Conviction

The former Sheffield United star has won the right to appeal his five-year prison sentence after a lengthy legal battle.

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The Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) said in a statement on Monday that there was a "real possibility" of Evans' conviction being overturned.

Evans has maintained his innocence since he was first accused and unsuccessfully applied for the right to appeal his conviction in November 2012.

He then applied to the CCRC in July 2014, which today ruled, after a 10-month investigation, that there are grounds for an appeal "on the basis of new information which was not raised at trial", which it received from Evans' lawyers.

The commission – which was set up to investigate suspected miscarriages of justice – says this new evidence "could have added support to Mr Evans' defence at trial and therefore raises a real possibility that the Court of Appeal may now quash the conviction. It will now be for the court to hear a fresh appeal to decide the case."

The CCRC has sent a 49-page document to Evans' legal team, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), and the Court of Appeal – but the commission has not released the evidence to the media or the public.

After hearing the new evidence the Court of Appeal can uphold the conviction, overturn it, or quash the conviction and order a retrial.

Evans, 26, who had a successful career with Manchester City, Sheffield United, and Wales, was jailed in April 2012 for raping a woman in a hotel after a night out in Rhyl, North Wales, in 2011.

He was released in October 2014 after serving half of his five-year sentence.

Richard Foster, chair of the CCRC, said that this intervention is not a judgment on the guilt of Evans or the honesty of the victim.

"The decision of the commission is not a judgment on guilt or innocence in relation to Ched Evans, nor is it a judgment about the honesty or integrity of the victim or any other person involved in the case," he said.

"Our role is to consider applications to see if, in our judgment, there is any basis on which to ask the court to hear a fresh appeal – that is our statutory responsibility.

"In this case we have identified new material which was not considered by the jury at trial and which in our view might have assisted the defence. In those circumstances, it is right and proper for the matter to be before the court so that they can decide whether or not the new information should affect the verdict in this case."

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The CCRC said it has been in contact with Evans' victim, who reportedly has had to change her name five times to avoid being publicly identified.

In its statement, the commission said it was "very aware of the potential impact that its work can have in relation to victims of the crimes for which CCRC applicants are convicted.

"Since this application arrived in July 2014, we have been careful to keep her informed about stages of the Commission's review so that, as far as it has been in our power to do so, she has learned about developments in the case from us rather than from any other source."

The victim's father said in October 2014 that "she went into hiding because people were trying to track her down and kill her."

The victim has anonymity for life under the Sexual Offences Act.

Evans' camp said in a statement that this was the latest stage of his "fight for justice".

"Ched and those who closely support him have always maintained that he was wrongly convicted, and using new information that was not presented at his trial, we expect that in time his conviction will be quashed.

"The decision to refer Ched's case is welcomed by all who know the true facts and Ched would like to thank all those who have supported him since his conviction in April 2012 and his subsequent release from prison in October 2014.

"In particular the support he received from football fans from many clubs kept his spirits high in the most difficult of circumstances but in particular the support from the many Sheffield United fans who stayed in contact with him."

The CPS said in a statement: "We will consider this matter very carefully and inform the court of our intention in due course."

Evans' campaign to overturn his conviction has proved highly controversial for both the sporting and political worlds.

A proposed deal that would have taken Evans to League One side Oldham Athletic in January was cancelled after members of the club's board received death threats and the local MP intervened.

More than 171,000 people signed a petition calling on Sheffield United not to invite Evans back to the club.

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Patrick Smith is a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Patrick Smith at patrick.smith@buzzfeed.com.

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