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Women’s groups criticize Premier League club for retaining player accused of rape despite new allegations.

Women's groups criticize Premier League club for retaining player accused of rape despite new allegations.

A Premier League club is facing criticism for allowing a footballer accused of rape to continue playing in the first team despite fresh allegations. The team has been accused of being “complicit in minimising violence against women” by legal experts and Women’s Aid. The player, who has not been suspended by the club, has been accused of raping two women in separate attacks, one in June last year and one in April 2021. A third victim has now come forward to claim she was sexually assaulted by the international star in February last year. The player was taken to the 2022 World Cup and spent hours being questioned under caution at a police station following the new allegation.

Teresa Parker, head of media relations for Women’s Aid, has called on clubs to implement guidelines for when players or employees are arrested or allegations made. She said: “As a club, lacking clear guidelines around allegations of rape and domestic abuse runs the risk of becoming complicit in minimising violence against women. Ignoring it isn’t a neutral action – it has an effect. The way a club responds not only affects those involved and the message they get from the club, but also messages that fans received about what is acceptable.”

The team has refused to comment on the allegations so far despite growing fury online. Legal experts have criticised the club for not suspending the player while he is on bail. Adam Pavey, partner in the Beyond Corporate specialist legal firm, said: “I think suspension is the initial act of an employer. You are not saying whether they have done anything or not. You are still innocent until proven guilty. But you have your female employees to consider, and that may involve a women’s team as well. I was amazed when I saw that they had not done that.”

The footballer was held last July after police swooped on a home in North London. His first alleged victim, in her 20s, claimed she was raped during a break in the Med in June. She fled the five-star resort she was staying in and flew home to her friends and family, it is said. The woman is understood to have spoken to police on her return to the UK and showed photos she claimed highlighted bruising on her body after the alleged attack. After his initial arrest, he was later re-arrested on suspicion of two more counts from April and June 2021. The June allegation was later dropped by police.

The player had been due to answer police bail this month but this was extended for a third time until early July. Scotland Yard said: “On 4 July 2022, an allegation of rape of a woman in her 20s was reported to police. It was reported the alleged rape happened in June 2022. On 4 July, a man was arrested at an address on suspicion of rape and taken into custody. While in custody, he was further arrested on suspicion of two incidents of rape that were alleged to have been committed in April and June of 2021 against a different woman in her 20s. In February 2023, the man was interviewed under caution for a sexual offence alleged to have taken place in Barnet in February 2022. This relates to a third victim and was reported to police in July 2022. No further action will be taken in relation to the alleged offence in June 2021 because the relevant legislation had not yet come into effect at the time it is said to have occurred. This has been explained to the complainant who continues to be supported by officers.”

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