A jury acquitted Welsh soccer player Ched Evans of rape on Friday after hearing evidence about his accuser’s sexual history during his retrial, the Guardian reported.
In 2012, Evans was convicted after a woman accused him of raping her while she was intoxicated. Evans denied the allegations, saying his sexual encounter with the then 19-year-old woman in May 2011 was consensual. While Evans began to serve out his five-year prison sentence, his family hired private investigators to gather new information about the accuser, according to the Independent. Evans ultimately successfully appealed the conviction and was granted a retrial.
Section 41 of the Youth and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 restricts what can be said at criminal trials in the U.K. about an accuser’s sexual history. But Evans’ lawyers were granted approval to question the woman about statements from two men who said they had previous sexual relationships with her. Both men said that the woman took the lead during sex, which aligned with Evans’ original police statement about his sexual encounter with the woman and was used as evidence that she consented, according to the Telegraph.
On Friday, the jury, comprised of seven women and five men, found Evans of the rape charge. “Whilst my innocence has now been established, I wish to make it clear that I wholeheartedly apologize to anyone who might have been affected by the events of the night in question,” Evans said in a statement read by his lawyer on Friday, according to the Telegraph.
Victim’s rights advocates criticized the decision to allow Evans’ lawyers to bring up the woman’s sexual history.
“The whole way the case has been handled trivializes rape and puts women off reporting. They know that if they come forward they are going to be trashed,” Lisa Longstaff, a spokesperson for Women Against Rape, told the Guardian. “This trial has been a throwback to bad times when women were the ones on trial and had no say in a sexual encounter.”
In the U.S., rape shield laws, designed to bar the introduction of evidence about an accuser’s past sexual history in court, have been in the headlines recently. In June, the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled that a murder victim’s sexual history could be made public during the appeal of the man who was convicted of the crime. But after New Hampshire’s attorney general challenged the decision, the state Supreme Court ruled last month that victim’s sexual history would remain private.