Ched Evans has been in the news a lot lately. For those who aren’t aware of the story, here’s a quick version of it: In April 2012, Evans was convicted of rape and sentenced to 5 years in prison. After serving half his sentence, having maintained his innocence and shown no remorse or rehabilitation, he was released last year. Now he is trying to get back into playing professional football – first with his old club Sheffield United, and then with Oldham Athletic – who announced last week that they would not be signing him.
Meanwhile, the woman he raped has been hounded by internet trolls, who have caused her so much trouble she has had to change her name three times, and move house five times. She spent Christmas alone, scared to see her parents in case she was located by the people who had been tormenting her.
Whenever I mention this story on social media, there is always at least one person who comes up with a comment such as:
he’s served his time; he should be allowed to get on with his career.
he’s innocent any way, she was lying
or other such banality.
Here’s the thing: Ched Evans was convicted of rape. He is a convicted rapist.
When you are convicted of a crime, as far as the law is concerned, you did it.
Generally speaking, when you’re sent to prison – for any crime – you don’t get out before the end of your sentence without showing some form of rehabilitation – or, at the very least, admitting your guilt. I have literally no clue how Evans managed to escape the rules other offenders have to live by.
Evans was denied leave to appeal his sentence twice and is currently attempting to get his conviction overturned. Overturning his conviction would not be an innocent verdict – it would mean the original conviction was not safe, that there was new evidence or original evidence was not satisfactory.
What bothers me is this: he was convicted in the first place. In a country where precious few allegations of rape even make it into a court room, much less gain a conviction, he was convicted. First, the police looked at all the evidence they had, and decided it was enough to secure a conviction. Then the CPS did the same. Then a jury found him guilty.
Evans has set up a website (bankrolled by his girlfriend’s wealthy family, I believe) to protest his innocence. It’s filled with “evidence” that he couldn’t possibly have done this. This evidence includes a video that was deemed inadmissible in court, of the woman in question entering the Premier Inn, with the caption “watch the video and judge for yourself.” This is relevant because the prosecution case was that the woman had been too drunk to consent to sex
That line is significant to me because at the moment, Evans’ fans are bemoaning that he has been subjected to trial by tabloid, a media witch hunt and whatever else they want to call it – yet his website invites people to do exactly the same to his victim, with a jumpy CCTV video showing a woman walking through a door.
So if I can’t see her staggering all over the place in this video, Evans is innocent? And it’s for Evans’ fans to judge, and not the court? Please.
For the last week or so, the focus has been on Evans’ football career. Oldham Athletic seemed likely to sign him, but then pulled out, saying they had received threats. People have been saying Evans should be allowed to go back to his career; after all, “he’s done his time.”
Here’s the thing, though: he hasn’t. He’s done half of his time and is still on licence.. And many people believe his actions since his release in October constitute reason to recall him to prison. Either way, he is still a convicted rapist. When many rapists are released from prison, they are not allowed to go back to their previous profession – whether they have other prospects and skills, or not. Although Evans’ job as a footballer might not necessarily put him in a position where he could offend again (as opposed to, for example, a taxi driver), it is a high profile position. And there is a certain lifestyle that seems to go with the job too – hence the fact Evans ever found himself in a hotel room with a colleague and a woman he didn’t know in the first place. His high profile means that people cannot help but know what goes on. At the moment, by even entertaining the idea of signing Evans to a club, the FA is sending out a very clear message. A message that says
we don’t care if he’s a rapist; it’s more important that he can kick a ball.
raping someone doesn’t need to damage your career.
we don’t believe the woman’s story.
Most worrying of all, it tells victims of rape everywhere:
don’t bother to report your rape to the authorities because it is easy for a rapist to convince everyone that you are lying.
Evans released a statement this week saying the Twitter trolls and people making his victim’s life a misery were absolutely not working at his behest. But his website encourages people to “judge for yourself.” It invites the public to make their own conclusions. By all means, put up a website saying “I was convicted but it was wrong and I’m going back to court to prove it” – but don’t use the website to undermine the British justice system for your own gain.
If Evans was indeed wrongly convicted, and manages to overturn his verdict, he should absolutely be able to go back to football and carry on his life without another word being said on the matter. But until that happens, the man is a convicted rapist – and should be regarded as such.
It’s unfortunate that Evans’ appeal is likely to take so long that even if acquitted he wouldn’t be able to return to football until the end of next season – but that’s an unfortunate part of our appeals system that means all people waiting to appeal a case are in that position. He shouldn’t get special treatment because he’s a footballer.
It is also worth noting that if we can say to a woman that she should not put herself in a position where she can be so drunk she’s raped, we can also say to a professional footballer that he should not put himself in a position where a woman can accuse him of drunkenly raping her. If you’e going to paint Evans as the victim in all this, then he should be subject to the same victim blaming “the complainant” (as she is called on his site) has been for a long while now.
I don’t know Ched Evans; I don’t know the woman he raped. For all I know, he didn’t do it. But he was convicted, and when you’re convicted of something, you don’t get to just say oh yeah, but I didn’t do it so it’s ok if I just go back to my previous life. The Guildford Four didn’t waltz out of court after their guilty verdict saying “we didn’t do it, so we’re just going to go home now.”