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Ched Evans: Release, Retribution and Rehabilitation

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 trainwith 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.1However,
following days of stinging public criticism of the club from pressure groups,2local
politicians,3sponsors,4celebrities5let
alone members of the public,6the
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.

This article first appeared as a blog on LawinSport.

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.9In
relation to culpability, the actions or attitudes of the offender in committing
the crime are also taken into account:Sexual offences Definitive Guideline,
2013
.10It
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.12Taking
into account aggravating and mitigating factors, he ultimately faced a
five-year prison sentence.13Evans
appealed against this decision on grounds that it had been inconsistent and,
therefore, unsafe. His appeal was, however, rejected by the Court of Appeal.14Evans
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 theRehabilitation
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.19In
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. ThePrisoner
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.20Around
1 in 5 employers (who honestly responded) have said that they did exclude or
were likely to exclude offenders from the recruitment process.21Based
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-offenders22and,
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 years24on
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”.

References

 

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-ched-evans-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/ched-evans-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-Ched-Evans-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-ched-evans-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/ched-evans-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-ched-evans-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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