Ched Evans is a name that few, if any, will be familiar with in this country. However, he is currently the source of what will be the biggest controversy in British sport this year.
Evans is a professional footballer of some notoriety. He was signed by European giants Manchester City in 2002 and experienced a successful loan spell at Norwich City, scoring 10 goals in 28 games for the Canaries. Upon returning to Manchester, Evans was given limited opportunities in the first team, making 16 appearances and scoring a solitary goal, and was purchased from the Citizens by League 1 club, Sheffield United. After a slow start to his career at Bramall Lane, Evans scored an impressive 35 goals in the 2011-12 season, gaining a debut for his national side, Wales.
On 30 May, 2011, Ched Evans was arrested on suspicion of the sexual assault of a woman following an incident that same day. On 26 July 2011, Evans and another professional footballer, Clayton McDonald, were charged with rape, which they both vehemently denied. During the trial, Evans and McDonald admitted to having sex with the woman, but both denied raping her.
The prosecution stated that the victim, a 19-year-old waitress, was too intoxicated to have consented. The court heard that the victim had woken up naked and confused in a double bed with her clothes on the floor and no memory of the incident. Samples taken from the victim at the time showed no alcohol. The samples showed traces of cocaine and cannabis, although she denied taking the drugs on the night of the incident. She had drunk two glasses of wine, four double vodkas with lemonade, and a shot of sambucca. As a result, she told police she “felt tipsy but not out of control”. The victim claimed to have almost no memory of what happened between leaving a dancing session with friends and waking up the following morning, leading her to believe that her drink had been spiked.
The defence stated both men had sex with the woman separately and with her consent, while the prosecution submitted that the pair “targeted” her for sex after she “literally stumbled across their path” and demonstrated herself to be too intoxicated to consent. Two friends of the men were also alleged to have watched and attempted to record the act through a window.
In April 2012 the jury returned its verdicts. McDonald was acquitted, but Ched Evans was convicted of rape and sentenced to five years in prison, a conviction that was upheld by the Court of Appeal in November later that year. After serving half of his sentence, Evans was released from prison three weeks ago, on October 17.
In April of this year, Sheffield United Chairman Kevin McCabe and new manager Nigel Clough met with Evans in prison to discuss the possibility of Sheffield United re-signing him following his release. A petition with 150,000 signatures was signed, urging the club not to re-sign the convicted rapist. Now, Evans has been invited to train with Sheffield, pending the possibility that he may still be signed and become a professional footballer once more.
So there are the facts. Now comes the opinion. After much deliberation and thought in my own mind, I have decided that there is possibly no right or wrong in this matter. On the one hand, you have a convicted rapist who has shown little to no remorse for the actions that he was sent to prison for, and on the other, you have a man who has gone to prison and been deemed rehabilitated by the same system that found him guilty of a crime that he maintains his innocence from.
So should he be allowed to return to work? Is it right that he could be potentially earning tens of thousands of pounds a week after the crimes he committed? Is it right that he could once again become a hero to so many football fans?
It is in my opinion that I believe that he should be allowed to play professional football once again, but first he must show remorse for the crimes that he was convicted of committing. This isn’t him “getting away with it,” This isn’t a tussle through the hair and a “go on, son.” The bloke has gone to prison. He has spent two-and -a-half years of the best years of his life, locked away from society. A high-profile inmate in a community of violent criminals. I have no sympathy for him, however. Do the crime, do the time.
But he’s done both, now, hasn’t he? What is it exactly that we, the society, want from our justice and legal systems? The mob will say “cut his bollocks off”, “kill the bastard”, “he should be locked up for life”. These things aren’t reasonable actions. If this was the case, there’d be a prison on every corner block, such would be the over-crowding. One must apply critical thought in what is a crime that evokes such fever and emotion.
I’m struggling to write more, because I just don’t know. It’s hard to believe that he is indeed as innocent as he claims, given that the initial trial found him guilty, as did the subsequent appeal. So twice he’s been found guilty. Ok, so he did it. If he was innocent I could see why he wouldn’t show remorse. But he did it. The Court said he did. Twice. He raped that 19 year old girl. But he’s also gone to prison. He’s lived in a hell hole for 30 months. But that’s only half of his sentence. But that’s common.
Should he be a footballer? He would have little to no other skills, given he has been a footballer his entire life. Is that society’s problem? What does this say for attitudes towards women? Potentially nothing, either way? Is football different from any other profession? Probably not, but it is high-profile. Is the amount of money relevant? Probably not. Does him not playing ruin his life? Maybe it does. Does rape ruin the victim’s life. Absolutely.
So maybe that’s it. Maybe Ched Evans’ time in prison isn’t enough. Maybe the real hardship of his life won’t be the prison sentence. Maybe he took something away from that young girl’s life that it’s only “fair” that his crime do the same to him. Maybe that’s justice served. Ched Evans will be allowed to work but maybe just not as a professional footballer. Maybe. But that’s not how the legal system works. This isn’t an “eye for an eye”.
Jesus Christ, I’m torn. I’ve changed my mind so many times just in the last hour that I can barely function anymore. I don’t know. What do you think?
By Ian Higgins