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PFAI lawyer stands by Evans article

A lawyer who suggested convicted rapist Ched Evans could be innocent has defended his views after they were removed from the website on which they were first published.

The Professional Footballers' Association of Ireland's solicitor Stuart Gilhooly, who also said the former Sheffield United striker deserves a second chance even if he is guilty, detailed his views in an article posted on the association's website.

Gilhooly's comments were removed on Tuesday morning and while he insisted he had no problem with the decision, he stood by the views.

He told Press Association Sport: "It was not taken down at my behest, but was removed with my consent and I have no difficulty with the PFA Ireland's decision to do so.

"The article reflected my opinion of the situation and did not seek to represent the views of the PFA Ireland or its members.

"I stand over its contents."

Stephen McGuinness, general secretary of the PFAI, confirmed that it had been the association's decision to remove the article from the website.

McGuinness told Press Association Sport: "We decided to take it down, it was our decision. We decided to take it down this morning as soon as we came in.

"The decision was not at the behest of Stuart, it was our decision to take it down."

In the article, Gilhooly argued that Evans, who was released last month after serving half of a five-year jail sentence following his conviction for the rape of a 19-year-old woman in Rhyl, North Wales, deserves a chance of redemption.

The player has always maintained his innocence despite being found guilty.

Gilhooly wrote: "This crime, as alleged, was at the bottom end. There was no violence and thankfully the victim has no recollection of it. This, I hasten to add, does not make it right, or anything close to it, but it is nonetheless a mitigating factor."

He added: "It's not easy to muster up too much sympathy for Evans, but there is surely nothing worse than being accused of a crime which you genuinely believe you didn't commit.

"The argument against that is that a jury convicted him of the crime. The same applied to the Guildford Four and the Birmingham Six. They got no public sympathy either.

"Maybe he is guilty or perhaps he's innocent, none of us knows for sure. Surely, either way, he deserves a chance at redemption. Don't we all?"

Evans' attempts to resume his career have been met by protests, with musician Paul Heaton resigning on Monday as a patron of Sheffield United's Community Foundation over the Blades' decision to allow Evans to train with the club.

TV presenter Charlie Webster, sixties pop star Dave Berry and Sheffield businesswoman Lindsay Graham have all resigned as patrons of the club, while Olympic athlete Jessica Ennis-Hill asked for her name to removed from a stand at Bramall Lane if Evans returns to play for the team.

An appeal against Evans's conviction was rejected by three judges at the Court of Appeal in 2012. His case is due to be looked at by the Criminal Case Review Commission.

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