We understand that Ched Evans, who was jailed for rape in April 2012, may be released as soon as this Saturday. We are disappointed that the Chief Executive of the PFA, Gordon Taylor, has made a public statement supporting Evans’ return to professional football. Rob Freeman wrote this article for issue 6 of our printed fanzine which will be published on 18 October 2014, but he’s kindly allowed us to post it here first.
Sometime this month around the publication of the next issue of the Turnstile Blues fanzine, Ched Evans is due for parole, after being jailed in 2012 after being found guilty of raping a woman in a Premier Inn in Rhyl. Fans of many clubs – including Ipswich – have taken to social media to proclaim Evans’s innocence. Many have taken their views on the case exclusively from two sources – one, being the fact that Clayton McDonald was found not guilty, while Evans was found guilty, the other being the official website set up by his family and friends in order to proclaim his innocence.
In the first instance, the reason why one man was found not guilty, and the second man found guilty was because the victim was alone with McDonald for long enough for her to have given consent, yet Evans never spoke to the victim until after she was at the hotel, after the point at which the hotel porter had stated at the trial she was intoxicated. The Crown Prosecution Service website refers to consent as: “In R v Bree  EWCA 256, the Court of Appeal explored the issue of capacity and consent, stating that, if, through drink, or for any other reason, a complainant had temporarily lost her capacity to choose whether to have sexual intercourse, she was not consenting, and subject to the defendant’s state of mind, if intercourse took place, that would be rape.” McDonald and Evans were separated, at which point McDonald and the victim took a taxi to the hotel. As the victim’s condition is unknown at time when she is alone with McDonald (but evidence given at the trial such as text messages sent around this time, suggests she had a fairly normal level of coherence), there is time for her consent, and therefore, enough doubt for a jury to find McDonald not guilty. As there is a witness to her condition deteriorating prior to the first time she speaks to Evans (they had met earlier in the evening but not spoken), and Evans confirmed at the trial that he had sex with the victim, the jury had little option but to find him guilty.
The second source of information – some would say misinformation – is the Evans website. The website itself is a classic example of rape culture and victim blaming. References to social media comments made five months after the rape suggesting that she was going to “win big”, and criticisms of rape charities (“They should not allow Cheds (sic) return to his chosen profession become a distraction from the good work they do”). There are references to her behaviour in order to make her sound fully coherent, while at the same time highlighting behaviour that some would find unsavoury. The victim’s behaviour shows signs similar to that of someone who has been spiked (going from coherence to appearing intoxicated in a short amount of time, and the subsequent inability to remember what had happened while appearing intoxicated), but as most drugs used to spike drinks disappear relatively quickly from the system, nothing was found in her system, when she was tested the next day. That said, as Evans had no opportunity to speak to the victim, he had no opportunity to spike her drink. If Evans is released, the question of whether he should be re-employed by Sheffield United – or another club – has been raised, with many arguments being raised in favour and against.
Many have an unease with someone convicted of such a crime shouldn’t have the ability to earn thousands of pounds a week on release – these arguments were also put forward when Marlon King (sexual assault and assault), Lee Hughes and Luke McCormick (death by dangerous driving) were released from prison after committing their respective crimes.
The main argument for, is that as he has paid his debt to society. After all, if a factory worker was to be released, we would want them to return to their career, as part of their rehabilitation, and re-integration into society. However, if Evans is released in October 2014, he won’t have repaid his debt to society – he will instead be serving the second half of his sentence on licence.
As the website proclaiming Evans’ innocence says: “Any individual convicted of a criminal offence should be allowed to return to their profession as part of their rehabilitation, with the exception of certain circumstances where they pose a risk to others”. It is fair to say that an unrepentant convicted rapist poses a risk to women just by being free in the first place, and when you consider that footballers are also expected to perform work within the community – especially those footballers who are in need of rehabilitation. However, Evans’s supporters feel he should resume his career where he left off, to the point of criticising the charity Rape Crisis for questioning whether an unrepentant convicted rapist should return to a highly paid high-profile career. However, this is part of Rape Crisis’s remit. The vast majority of rape victims suffer with flashbacks, and these are often triggered by references in the media to rape, and references to Evans continuing a high-profile career is going to see him referred to as a convicted rapist, and even if he isn’t the mention of his name may trigger a traumatic memory in a rape victim. And it is for those reasons, rather than how much money he may or may not earn that makes me believe that he should not be allowed to return to football.
For many, the question isn’t whether Evans should be re-employed by Sheffield United, or any other club. While Evans continues to deny his guilt, many would argue that he should not be released on parole at all. There are suggestions that, because he still maintains his innocence (he made a third submission for an appeal in July this year), he may not be released – other people in this situation (most notably, the Birmingham Six) have been refused parole because a condition of parole is that you must admit your guilt before you can be released. After all, in the eyes of the law, you cannot be rehabilitated if you are unrepentant. When dealing with offences such as rape, the Sexual Offenders Treatment Programme requires the prisoners concerned to give a full and frank account of their crime – although this programme doesn’t apply to prisoners going through the appeal process. Majority owner and former chairman of Blackpool FC, Owen Oyston had parole refused while he served a sentence for rape because he refused to admit his guilt. In his case, he appealed to the High Court, which ruled that the Parole Board had ruled unlawfully in his case, however other parole cases have continued to be refused for the same reason.