A LIBERAL Democrat election candidate has been accused of trivialising rape after expressing offensive opinions on his Facebook page.

Liam Elvish is standing in tomorrow's borough council election for the Chineham ward – but several of his ‘friends’ on Facebook last week contacted The Gazette in disgust after he posted comments about the conviction of Sheffield United footballer, Ched Evans, who was jailed for five years for raping a 19-year-old woman.

The footballer, aged 23, admitted to having sex with the victim at a hotel, but said that it was consensual. A jury decided she was too drunk to consent to intercourse.

Evans’ co-defendant, Port Vale defender Clayton McDonald, 23, also admitted to having sex with the woman, but was found not guilty.

Mr Elvish’s Facebook page is mostly private, but he has more than 600 ‘friends’ on his account, and The Gazette has seen his post, and the thread of comments – which are reproduced below as they appear – following it.

Mr Elvish wrote: “Is it just me or is 5 years is ridiculously excessive>? ... ‘The judge said the sentence took into account that there had been no force involved and the complainant received no injuries.’ Yet another shameful example of our disproportionate legal system > Most girls I speak to say they wouldn’t say no to Ched Evans, anyway...”

Mr Elvish’s offensive opinion resulted in a backlash of comments from angry Facebook users, with one pointing out: “It’s still rape, even without violence.”

She added: “Actually quite offensive to suggest, by complaining about his sentence, dismissing its seriousness, and bringing up that most girls ‘wouldn’t say no’ to him, that rape is excusable. Kind of disgusting, even.”

Mr Elvish responded by referring to the jail sentence as “absurdly long” in comparison to other convictions, and added: “I’m not saying he shouldn’t be punished for ‘taking advantage’ of the situation.”

Another Facebook ‘friend’ was so angry with the post, he told Mr Elvish he was immediately deleting him as a ‘friend,’ and added: “I hope the Lib Dems aren’t stupid enough to put somebody up again for election who trivialises rape convictions.”

When The Gazette spoke to Mr Elvish at his home in Belvedere Gardens, Chineham, he said: “It’s a controversial issue. If I have offended anyone, I apologise. I think we are all entitled to our own opinions.”

The 24-year-old, who works as a museum assistant for Hampshire Museums Service, admitted that his words were perhaps not best chosen, and added: “I wasn’t trying to trivialise rape.”

But he stuck by his opinion that the sentence was harsh, adding: “I accept that it’s an emotive issue. Most of the people who commented are my friends. I’m all up for debate.”

Gavin James, leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, said he was not aware of Mr Elvish’s Facebook comments, but added: “I don’t think it was a well thought-out comment. He’s entitled to his opinion but it’s not something the party would agree with.

“I wasn’t in court so I couldn’t comment on the sentence, and I don’t endorse his view. We will have to discuss it with him first before commenting further.

“I don’t think it impacts on his ability to represent Chineham. He’s a young man who’s fairly inexperienced, and young people use Facebook without much thought, and it’s something he might regret later. He’s a young man – he’s not a professional politician.”

Mr Elvish is up against Conservative candidate Elaine Still, Labour candidate Anne Chapman and Independent Jo Walke in the elections on May 3.