Ched Evans: Footballer released from prison after rape sentence
Former Sheffield United striker Ched Evans has been released from prison after serving half his five-year sentence for rape.
The 25-year-old was found guilty in April 2012 of raping a 19-year-old woman in a hotel in May 2011.
Evans maintains his innocence and will make a "very personal and profound" statement on his website next week.
Sheffield United boss Nigel Clough has held talks with club officials about the possibility of Evans returning.
But almost 150,000 people have signed an online petition urging the club not to take the Wales international back.
Evans left Wymott Prison near Leyland in Lancashire in a car at about 05:30 BST on Friday.
United signed Evans for £3m in 2009, but released him the month after he was convicted of raping a woman at a hotel near Rhyl, Denbighshire.
The footballer denied the offence, but was found guilty by a jury at Caernarfon Crown Court.
Professional Footballers' Association chief executive Gordon Taylor said last week that Evans should be allowed to continue his career after his release.
And Clough told BBC Radio Sheffield on Wednesday: "We've had one or two discussions and the owners will make a decision on it.
"It is above a football level. If he comes back then we [the coaching staff] will decide whether to play him or not."
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg urged the club's owners to "think really long and hard" before re-signing Evans.
Clegg, MP for Sheffield Hallam, said: "When you take a footballer on, you are not taking just a footballer these days, you are also taking on a role model."
Richard Caborn, former sports minister and ex-MP for Sheffield Central, said Evans must "show remorse and say sorry" before he can be considered for a return to playing professionally.
Former Manchester City forward Evans, capped 13 times by Wales, scored 48 goals in 113 games for the Blades before his imprisonment.
Jill Saward, who was raped in the notorious Ealing Vicarage case in 1986, believes allowing Evans to play professional football again would send out "a totally wrong message".
"We don't want young people being influenced by icons or celebrities who have a past like this," Saward, a high-profile victim of crime campaigner, told BBC Breakfast.
"I'm not saying he can't do anything in football but I don't think he should be playing."
Christopher Stacey, director of reformed offenders' charity Unlock, argued on Breakfast that Evans deserves a second chance.
"There is a difference between condoning his behaviour and giving him a job," said Stacey.
"People like Ched Evans have to go somewhere. They are back in the world and we have to find a way of reintegrating them.
"Ultimately people have to be the best at the job they are going for and that's a decision Sheffield United have to make as an employer."
I think this is a really difficult one. I totally believe in offenders being able to rehabilitate themselves after they've served their sentence. On the other hand, when footballers are supposed to be 'role models' (whatever that means, considering some of them), allowing Evans to rejoin his team as though nothing has happened, and make fuckloads of money again, seems all kinds of wrong to me. Sigh. I don't know what the answer is. Maybe for Evans not to have raped that girl in the first place.
What say you, GRcade?