There is a huge story dividing the UK right now. It centers around a 27 year old professional footballer (soccer player) called Ched Evans. I’ve been following this story because it has prevailed prominently on the online British sports and football pages, which I frequent every couple of days. It seems more interesting now, because we have our own Canadian “sex scandal du la jour” Jian Ghomeshi. To me, the Evans story is a brilliant case study in how society now views sexual assault and rape, some professional footballers attitudes to woman and sex, plus social media mob mentality, that now seems to prevail in public discourse. But let’s see what you think:
The unfortunate affair started back in May 2011. One of Evans team mates Clayton MacDonald after a night of drinking, was ordering food in a fast food restaurant in Rhyl, Wales. He was approached by a nineteen year old woman, they had a conversation and ended up leaving together in a cab to go back to a hotel that MacDonald had a room booked in. At some point he texted Evans saying “I have a bird (woman)”. I viewed CCTV footage that is available online of the pair entering the hotel and the interactions at the fast food restaurant. The woman is a little unsteady on her feet but by no means falling over drunk. In fact the footage shows her running back to the taxi in high heels to retrieve her handbag, she bends down puts a pizza box on the floor, opens the taxi door, has a conversation with the driver, then runs back into the hotel. Apparently the two then go to the room and have sex. Evans arrives half an hour later goes to MacDonald’s room, MacDonald leaves and Evans has sex with the woman. None of the above is disputed by anyone. When MacDonald left, he told the night porter to watch the lady in his room because she is very drunk. The night porter goes up to the room listens at the door and hears the sounds of I quote “Two people having sex” and leaves thinking all is OK. There are stories circulating online, that two of Evans friends videoed the proceedings from a window, but that does not seem to have been verified anywhere because that would prove Evans guilt or innocence. Evans left via an emergency exit.
The woman wakes at 11 am having no recollection of anything that had occurred, she had incidentally urinated in the bed. She immediately went to the police and reported that she thought she had been given a date rape drug and had no memory of the night before. The police investigated, picked up the two football players, later that day. In questioning, both admitted to having consensual sex with the woman. They were both immediately charged with rape. The toxicology reports on the woman, the following day, showed she had limited traces of alcohol,cocaine and marijuana in her system, but no date rape drug was present. Through interviews with her, it was estimated that she had approximately 2.5 times the alcohol level to drive when the incidents occurred. Which seems like a lot but in the binge drinking culture of Britain’s youth, is pretty much a normal weekend night out.
Evans and McDonald, were tried at the Crown Court at Caernarfon, Wales, after being charged with rape. Evans was convicted on 20 April 2012 and was sentenced to five years imprisonment. (McDonald was acquitted). He was eligible for release after serving half of that sentence. In August 2012, Evans was refused leave to appeal against the conviction by a single Court of Appeal judge. Then the full court upheld the decision in November. Evans continues to maintain his innocence and in November 2013 recruited a new legal team to attempt to clear his name. He was released on 17 October 2014, although he remains on the Violent and Sex Offender Register indefinitely. Following his release, the Criminal Cases Review Commission announced that they were fast-tracking a review of his conviction.
Pretty open a shut case right? Well actually no. On further investigation beyond, the normal media sources, I found the following on line:
A piece of evidence that could not be presented at trial was the fact that the woman had tried and failed to have a young rugby player charged with the same offence a year earlier. Also some deleted Tweets from late 2011, which are now posted online bragging to her friends about how she was going to spend the criminal compensation money she figured she would get from a civil suit against Evans and McDonald. Herself and all her close friends completely deleted all Facebook and text conversations soon after the night in question. When asked about this she explained she was just cleaning up her phone, although a period of around two days around the incident were all that were missing.
After the trial, trolls who supposedly supported Evans released her name on Twitter leading to her being threatened and having to move 5 times, because of harassment. 9 people were charged with contempt of court, for releasing this woman’s name in the public domain. But this was shared thousands of times on Twitter. In reading about this story her name very quickly appeared as part of the conversation.
Since he was released from prison he wanted to return to his football career. Sheffield United were ready and willing to re-sign him, but club sponsors, benefactors, the prime minister, the leader of the official opposition, various talking heads and a 120,000 name petition; put so much pressure on the club, they pulled out of negotiations with the player. Co-chairman Jim Phipps, attributed the decision to “mob-like behaviour”, stating his belief that Evans has a right to return to his career having served his sentence.
Same thing happened with Hartlepool FC, after they showed interest in the player. The local Labour MP got involved calling Evans a “pariah”. Management soon made a statement saying that they were no longer interested in signing this player. He was offered a place on a club in Malta, but the government stepped in and said he would not be allowed to leave the country.
Two days ago Oldham Athletic FC were “80% sure that they would be signing Evans”. I just read on the BBC website, that after death threats to members of the board of directors of the club, also a threat of rape to one of their daughters, sponsors threatening to pull advertising, another 60,000 name petition, politicians weighing in and general social media mob rule. The club has now decided against signing Evans.
My question is: After someone has served their time, even in a case of rape, when is a person allowed to fully integrate back into society as a free person? I saw it written somewhere, a person justifying the above mob rule because Evans wanted to return to football and as such would be a roll model for young people. If he wanted to collect garbage or wash dishes that would be perfectly OK. How comfortable would you feel if your daughter were working in a kitchen with a convicted rapist? Also it seems from court transcripts, that the only way the rape conviction was successful was because the woman had no recollection of the sexual activity and the men admitted to having sex with her. I suggest that if this were the litmus test for rape in my younger wilder days, I was probably “raped” a couple of times myself 😉
Anyway, I thought this was an interesting story from my country of birth for some of you to ponder.