We were once famed for our sense of fair play, but if the reaction against Ched Evans is anything to go by, that sense of fair play is dead and buried. For those of you who don’t follow football, Ched Evans was a journeyman professional footballer with Sheffield United when he was charged and convicted of rape. His defence that it was consensual sex was not believed by the jury, and he was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment. Upon his release last year, he had expected to take up his professional career where he had left off with Sheffield, but it was not to be.
As far as the law is concerned, the time to appeal the conviction on the basis that it was against the weight of the evidence was within three weeks of the conviction and sentence, so he is well out of time. I don’t know if he did actually appeal within the time limit, but the fact that he served his sentence indicates that any appeal at that stage must have fallen on deaf ears. The Court of Appeal does not hear the evidence anew, nor do their lordships form their own view, they simply ask themselves if Ched received a fair trial, and if he did, and the jury convicted, tough! As I understand it, his case is with the Criminal Cases Review Commission, which is the only other route back to an appeal hearing, but two and a half years after the conviction, they are obviously taking their time, or else they’ve lost the file.
Ched’s problem, for want of a better word, is that he has always maintained his innocence. He pleaded not guilty at his trial, and he has maintained his innocence throughout. I find it quite extraordinary and exceedingly unfair that an innocent man wrongly convicted can be penalised within the prison system for not admitting his guilt, but that’s the way the system works. I remember when I did parole cases, trying to get prisoners released well past their tariff date, but if Social Services didn’t support the application, almost without exception it was doomed. The prison social worker, strapped into blinkers and clutching her checklist, would tell the Parole Board that the applicant had shown no remorse for his crime, and was therefore a risk to the community if released. This was their way of saying that as the prisoner maintained his innocence, he was untreatable.
This narrow minded and blinkered approach continues to blight Ched now that he’s released. He has refused to apologise to the victim of his ‘crime’, so he is condemned all over again when it comes to resuming his career. Sheffield United had honoured a local lass who had won gold at the Olympics, and had even named a stand after her, although her association with the football club was tenuous in the extreme. She kicked oop a fuss, and the club directors, with backbones like limp lettuce, gave in, went back on their offer to re-employ Chet and slammed the door in his face.
And so it has been with other clubs. The latest club to consider signing Ched and then reneging has been Oldham, presumably one of those dark satanic mill towns oop north, in the third division, and who boast an average home attendance of four thousand, so hardly at the cutting edge.
So I say, leave the man alone, give him a job, don’t judge him all over again, he has paid his debt to society. He will be on the sex offenders’ register for years to come, so if he misbehaves, the full majesty of the criminal law will come crashing around his ears.
Above all, let’s show him some compassion and a sense of fair play.