Wales

Ched Evans: Sheffield United Twitter probe into Connor Brown rape case comments

  • 23 April 2012
  • From the section Wales

Sheffield United have launched an inquiry into Twitter comments by a team-mate of Ched Evans after the Wales international was jailed for rape.

The club said it was "aware of a very serious matter" following the posting by reserve team player Connor Brown.

It comes as legal experts expressed concern over the alleged naming of Evans's victim by other Twitter users.

Former Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer said anyone who published the name of a rape victim was committing a crime.

Evans, 23, was jailed for five years on Friday for raping a 19-year-old woman in Rhyl, Denbighshire.

Victims of rape and other sexual assaults are guaranteed the right to lifetime anonymity.

Naming a complainant, regardless of the outcome of the case, is contempt of court and can be punishable with a prison term.

North Wales Police are investigating reports that the woman has been named and abused on Twitter.

Lord Falconer said many people wrongly believed that social media websites were somehow exempt from the laws prohibiting the identification of rape complainants.

He said: "If they are a means of publishing people's names, when people's names should be kept secret, then that just as much infringes the law as doing it in a newspaper.

"You can comment on things, we don't want to try to chill free speech, but there are certain limits beyond which the law will not allow you to go.

"And one of those limits is identifying the names and identity of rape victims."

Cardiff-based criminal law barrister Andrew Taylor said: "I think the biggest threat we've got to jury trials is the advent of the internet."

"It's very, very dangerous. Judges these days in courts every day will say to jurors, 'don't go home and do your own research on the internet. Don't use the internet'.

Image caption Evans was named in the Professional Footballers' Association's League One team of the year

"We've had cases in the past where jurors have contacted witnesses and complainants in the case - and been sent to prison for doing it.

"It doesn't take an awful lot of computer knowledge to put names in search engines and come up perhaps with things that have happened many years ago, sometimes wrongly reported.

"The law was written in an age before the internet and social networking sites, and what I suspect is Parliament will encourage now... the toughening up of laws surrounding contempt of court."

His comments came as North Wales Police said they were "collating all relevant information" following alleged comments on Twitter.

Det Ch Insp Steve Williams said: ''As and when criminal offences are identified on such websites they will be dealt with robustly and the offenders will be brought to justice.

'Too drunk to consent'

"We find this to be profoundly disturbing and are determined to seek out those responsible."

"I would advise people who post such status and tweets to consider the implications of their action and those who add comments to appreciate that they may be condoning such behaviour and contributing to the continued trauma upon this young woman."

Evans admitted having sex with the victim at a hotel in north Wales last May.

The woman said she had no memory of the incident and the prosecution successfully argued she was too drunk to consent to intercourse.

Port Vale defender Clayton McDonald, 23, who also admitted having sex with the victim, was found not guilty.

Meanwhile, on Sunday night Evans was named in the Professional Footballers' Association's League One team of the year.

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