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Ched Evans: Release, Retribution And Rehabilitation

This article was first written for and published by LawInSport. Click here to view the original.

John Mehrzad 

In April 2012 Ched Evans, the former Wales and Sheffield
United striker, was convicted of raping a 19-year-old woman in a hotel room in
Rhyl, Denbighshire. It is a shocking and a wholly unacceptable crime for him to
have committed.

RELEASE

Last month Evans was released after serving half
of his 5-year prison sentence. Upon his release, and following a request
from his union and the PFA, Sheffield United offered Evans the
opportunity to train with the club. It was, though, emphasised by the club
at the time that no decision had been made about whether to offer Evans a
new contract.However, following days of stinging public
criticism of the club from pressure groups,local politicians,sponsors,celebritieslet
alone members of the public,the club retracted its training
offer to Evans.7

It is in that high-profile context that this article will
consider how the law operates in relation to convictions of Evans’ kind as
well as looking at policy arguments about the rehabilitation of
offenders, especially within the world of football.

RETRIBUTION

Modern society, by way of its criminal laws, believes that
an offender should be punished for their crime – the more serious the offence,
the stiffer the punishment. However, it has also recognised that once the
punishment has been served, the offender should be rehabilitated back into
society having served their “time”.8

In terms of the approach to the punitive aspect of a
conviction,an effective checklist is followed by the presiding judge to
determine the appropriate sentence. Even for a very serious crime such as rape,
the law distinguishes between the worst possible types of circumstances and
others that do not fall into that category. That distinction, or range of
approaches, takes into account, first, the level of harm to the victim and,
secondly, the culpability of the accused:Sexual Offences Definitive
Guideline: Rape and assault offences
,2013. As to the level of
harm, consideration is given to a number of factors, including the
vulnerability of the victim, their age and the nature of the offence itself.In
relation to culpability, the actions or attitudes of the offender in committing
the crime are also taken into account:Sexual offences Definitive
Guideline, 2013
.10 It is only once those two steps have
been undertaken that the appropriate sentence is determined.11

In Evans’ case, the category range for a rape
conviction was four to seven years.12 Taking into account
aggravating and mitigating factors, he ultimately faced a five-year prison
sentence.13 Evans appealed against this decision on grounds that
it had been inconsistent and, therefore, unsafe. His appeal was, however,
rejected by the Court of Appeal.14 Evans was later
released automatically after serving half of his five-year sentence.15

It is important to emphasise that Evans has always
maintained his innocence and has never expressed any contrition for the offence
he was found to have committed16, including continuing his
application to the Criminal Cases Review Commission, which acts as the first
step to a second appeal.17

REHABILITATION

In order to assist former offenders, Parliament intended by
way of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974(“ROA”)
to re-integrate them without the heavy stigma of their former conviction. In
summary, under that legislation, once a prescribed period has elapsed from the
date of the offender’s conviction, the conviction is then “spent” and
the offender becomes a “rehabilitated person”.18

However, for ex-offenders, such as Evans, who have been
sentenced to over 30-months for sexual offences, their sentence in never spent.19 In
other words, if asked, he is obliged to disclose his previous conviction when
seeking employment. Of course, due to his own high-profile past as a
professional footballer who was convicted of rape and the recent furore around
his proposed training with Sheffield United,Evans is always likely
to be associated with his crime in any event.

The rehabilitation of offenders is a major issue
in society. It is one thing having a statutory basis for rehabilitation. It is
quite another to achieve it. The Prisoner Reform Trust’s Surveying
Prisoner Crime Reduction Survey 2013 
reveals that offenders, when
asked which factors would be important, most stressed the importance of having
a job (68%). However, in 2012-13 only 26% of prisoners entered employment on release from
prison.20 Around 1 in 5 employers (who honestly responded) have
said that they did exclude or were likely to exclude offenders from the
recruitment process.21 Based on those statistics,rehabilitation for
past crimes is very far from being achieved even if the “punishment” has
already been served. It is a truism that a criminal conviction and certainly
the related prison-sentence are major barriers to employment. In other words,
they have a “discriminatory” effect.

However, some high-profile employers have made a point of
employing ex-offenders as a matter of policy. In their view, by doing so they
are doing society a favour rather than undermining it. For example, the
key-cutters Timpson’s, despite initial criticisms, boasts that it is company
policy to work with ex-offenders22 and, in particular, makes
the point that a real sense of loyalty can be engendered from extending a
second chance to others. Virgin has also adopted a similar policy23.

Following Evans’ release, he is back into society
and, just like anyone-else, is permitted to look for and carry out work. However,
it seems that society – by way of some politicians, local leaders and
celebrities – does not believe he should be allowed to train at a professional
football club (let alone play for it). Sheffield United has been roundly
criticised for even making its training offer.

Other footballers have however been re-employed, and even
welcomed back, after convictions; Duncan Ferguson was jailed for three months
for assaulting John McStay during a game in 1994 and Tony Adams was jailed for
four months for drink-driving. In other sports, American footballer Plaxico
Burress was sentenced to two years24 on a firearm offence. He
re-signed with the Steelers after his release. In 2007, the Atlanta
Falcon’s quarterback Michael Vick was sentenced to 23 months in jail for his
involvement in dog fighting operations25. He too returned to the
sport. Mike Tyson, the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world during the
1980’s was convicted of raping an 18 year old beauty queen in an Indianapolis
hotel. He later made a comeback on release from prison and has stared in
several Hollywood movies.26

CONCLUSIONS

The above rather begs the following questions; whether there
is something fundamentally different about being a convicted rapist which means Evans should
be treated less favourably than, say, a person who committed a different,
albeit very serious criminal offence? Should a high-profile football club, with
responsibilities to its cross-gender supporters and to the local community,
treat serious offenders differently than other employers? Do the
responsibilities of professional footballers mean that once a particular
boundary is crossed, there is no coming back?

Based on Evans’ case, it seems that society and now
Sheffield United believe the answer to at least some, if not all of those
questions, to be “yes”. 

  1. Sufc.co.uk, (2014).Sheffield United Football Club acknowledges the public discussion on the potential return of its former player, Mr Ched Evans, to professional football. [online] Available at: http://www.sufc.co.uk/news/article/20141111-statement-2078346.aspx [Accessed 24 Nov. 2014].
  2. Hatchet, J. (2014).Kevin McCabe – Chairman Of Sheffield Utd Football Club: Refuse to reinstate Ched Evans as a player at Sheffield United.. [online] Change.org. Available at: https://www.change.org/p/kevin-mccabe-chairman-of-sheffield-utd-football-club-refuse-to-reinstate-chedevans-as-a-player-at-sheffield-united [Accessed 24 Nov. 2014].
  3. Riach, J. (2014).Pressure grows on Sheffield United over Ched Evans’ potential return. [online] the Guardian. Available at:http://www.theguardian.com/football/2014/nov/12/chedevans-sheffield-united-pressure-grows [Accessed 24 Nov. 2014].
  4. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2831886/Sheffield-United-sponsors-threaten-boycott-convicted-rapist-ChedEvans-signs.html [Accessed 24 Nov. 2014].
  5. Johnston, C. (2014).Jessica Ennis-Hill wants name removed from stand if Ched Evans given contract. [online] the Guardian. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/sport/2014/nov/13/jessica-ennis-hill-name-stand-chedevans-contract-sheffield-united[Accessed 24 Nov. 2014].
  6. Gibson, O. and Johnston, C. (2014).Ched Evans: Sheffield United withdraw offer of training. [online] The Guardian. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/football/2014/nov/20/chedevans-training-offer-withdrawn-sheffield-united[Accessed 23 Nov. 2014].
  7. Sufc.co.uk, (2014).After ongoing and extensive deliberation, Sheffield United Football Club has decided to retract the opportunity for its former player, Ched Evans, to use the Club’s facilities. [online] Available at:http://www.sufc.co.uk/news/article/sheffield-united-chedevans-2094632.aspx [Accessed 24 Nov. 2014].
  8. Smith, J. and Hogan, B. (2009).Smith & Hogan criminal law. 10th ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, p.16.
  9. Sexual Offences Definitive Guideline:Rape and assault offences(2013). [PDF] London: The Sentencing Council, p.10. Available at:http://sentencingcouncil.judiciary.gov.uk/docs/Final_Sexual_Offences_Definitive_Guideline_content_(web).pdf [Accessed 23 Nov. 2014].
  10. Ibid. p.11.
  11. Ibid. pp.10 & 11.
  12. Ibid. p. 11.
  13. R. v. Chedwyn Evans[2012] EWCA Crim 2559 at paragraph 2
  14. R. v. Chedwyn Evans[2012] EWCA Crim 2559 at paragraph 19
  15. See summary section. Cps.gov.uk, (2014).Sentencing and Dangerous Offenders: Legal Guidance: The Crown Prosecution Service. [online] Available at:http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/s_to_u/sentencing_and_dangerous_offenders/[Accessed 23 Nov. 2014].
  16. Chedevans.com, (2014).Ched Evans Was Wrongly Convicted of Rape on 20th April 2012 |Ched Evans Official Website. [online] Available at: http://www.chedevans.com [Accessed 23 Nov. 2014].
  17. Justice.gov.uk, (2014).About the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC). [online] Available at: https://www.justice.gov.uk/about/criminal-cases-review-commission [Accessed 24 Nov. 2014].
  18. Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 section 1.
  19. Guidance on the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. (2014). 1st ed. [pdf] London: Gov.UK, section 2: Rehabilitation Periods. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/299916/rehabilitation-of-offenders-guidance.pdf [Accessed 23 Nov. 2014].
  20. National Offender Management Service Annual Report 2012/13, Ministry of Justice (2013).
  21. Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (2010) Disadvantaged Groups in the Labour Market.
  22. Timpson, J. (2014).John Timpson: We are making a difference to the lives of ex-offenders . Timpson Blog[online] Timpson.co.uk. Available at: http://www.timpson.co.uk/blog/article/79/john-timpson-we-are-making-a-difference-to-the-lives-of-ex-offenders-[Accessed 23 Nov. 2014].
  23. Bibliography: Branson, R. (2013). Employ more ex-offenders – Virgin.com. [Blog].
  24. ESPN.com, (2009).Burress sentenced, begins two-year prison term. [online] Available at: http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/news/story?id=4493887[Accessed 27 Nov. 2014].
  25. Martin, K. (2014).Michael Vick relishes second chance at starting against Bills – Newsday. [online] Newsday. Available at: http://www.newsday.com/sports/football/jets/michael-vick-relishes-second-chance-at-starting-against-bills-1.9644660 [Accessed 23 Nov. 2014].
  26. Daily Mail, (2013).Mike Tyson opens up about bankruptcy, sex in jail and AIDS. [online] Mail Online. Available at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2493510/Mike-Tyson-opens-bankruptcy-sex-got-jail-told-ex-wife-AIDS.html [Accessed 23 Nov. 2014].

 

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