Television presenter Judy Finnigan has apologised for controversial comments about rape which she made while discussing former Sheffield United striker Ched Evans during her debut on ITV chat show Loose Women.
Speaking about Evans, a convicted rapist who is expected to be released from prison this week, the former This Morning presenter said the rape he committed was ‘not violent’ and did not cause ‘bodily harm’.
The presenters were discussing Evans’s case following reports that he could return to the Blades after serving half of a five-year sentence for raping a 19-year-old woman in a hotel room in Rhyl, North Wales.
Finnigan said: “If he does go back, he will have to brave an awful lot of comments obviously from the fans who are there.
“But, having said that, he has served his time, he’s served two years. The rape - and I am not, please, by any means minimising any kind of rape - but the rape was not violent, he didn’t cause any bodily harm to the person.
“It was unpleasant, in a hotel room I believe, and she had far too much to drink. That is reprehensible, but he has been convicted and he has served his time. When he comes out, what are we supposed to do, just actually to refuse to let him do his job even though he’s already been punished?”
Her comments sparked a backlash among viewers who voiced their anger on Twitter.
One said: “Did Judy just justify rape on Loose Women? Sick. It’s always wrong no matter what the circumstances are.”
Another wrote: “Can’t believe Judy has just said on Loose Women it wasn’t a bad rape, Any rape is bad and wrong. Disgusting.”
Finnigan, aged 66, later issued a statement saying: “I apologise unreservedly for any offence I may have caused as a result of the wording I used.
“I absolutely wasn’t suggesting rape was anything other than an horrendous crime and, as I said on the programme, I was in no way attempting to minimise the terrible ordeal any woman suffers as a result.
“The point I was attempting to raise as part of the debate was what should happen to someone after they have committed a crime and served their time?”
Evans was jailed in April 2012, but has always maintained his innocence and is preparing a submission to the Criminal Cases Review Commission aimed at quashing his conviction.
Sheffield United officials have met Evans in prison but have never confirmed that he is due to re-sign.