Former Sheffield United striker Ched Evans is to have his rape conviction referred to the Court of Appeal, it has been announced this afternoon.
The Criminal Cases Review Commission has made the ruling on the basis of new information not raised at his trial which the body says ‘raises a real possibility that the Court of Appeal may now quash the conviction’.
The Court of Appeal will now decide whether to uphold or overturn the conviction or order a retrial.
Evans was convicted in 2012 of rape and was released last year halfway through a five-year jail term.
A spokesman for the footballer today welcomed the decision and thanked Sheffield United fans for their support.
He applied to the CCRC in July 2014 in a bid to have his conviction overturned, with his legal team making fresh submissions in January and April 2015.
A CCRC spokesman said that following an ‘in-depth’ 10 month investigation it has now decided to refer the case to the Court of Appeal.
He said: “The referral is made on the basis of new information which was not raised at trial, and which in the view of the Commission, could have added support to Mr Evans’s 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.”
A 49-page document setting out the reasons for the decision has been sent to Evans’ legal team, along with the Court of Appeal and the Crown Prosecution Service.
But the document is not being made public.
Richard Foster, Chair of the Criminal Cases Review Commission, said: “The decision of the Commission is not a judgment on guilt of 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.
“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.”
Following his release from prison, Evans has made several attempts to restart his professional career.
But potential moves to clubs including Sheffield United and Oldham have fallen through following public outcry.
A spokesman for Evans said: “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 Utd fans who stayed in contact with him.”