UK

Ched Evans: Investigation into rape conviction fast-tracked

Ched Evans Image copyright PA
Image caption Ched Evans has maintained his innocence

An inquiry into the rape conviction of footballer Ched Evans is to be fast-tracked by the body that examines potential miscarriages of justice.

Evans was found guilty in April 2012 of raping a 19-year-old woman in a hotel room the previous May.

The Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) has said its investigation into the case could begin within weeks.

The former Sheffield United player was released from prison on Friday after serving half of a five-year sentence.

The Wales international denied the offence, which took place in a hotel near Rhyl, north Wales, but was found guilty by a jury at Caernarfon Crown Court.

The commission said the fact the investigation could begin in weeks rather than the usual months is not an indication of how strong his case may be.

'Continuing to deliberate'

It says it is acting, in part, because of "issues raised" by Evans's legal team.

A CCRC spokesman told the Observer it had expected a "significant wait" to the inquiry beginning, but there had been a request by the footballer's lawyers to prioritise the case.

He said after the request was made, "in line with our published policy on prioritisation, and in relation to the facts of the case and the issues raised in Mr Evans's application to us... we now expect our substantive investigation to begin within the next few weeks".

The spokesman added: "The decision to prioritise the case simply brings forward the starting point of the investigations to decide whether or not there may be grounds for us to refer the case to the Court of Appeal.

"It does not in any way represent a judgment by the commission as to the merits of the case or its chances of being referred."

There has been widespread public debate over whether or not Evans's former club should offer him a new contract now he has been released from prison.

More than 150,000 people have signed an online petition against his returning to the club.

Sheffield United has said it is "continuing to deliberate on any long-term decision".

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