Ex-Sheffield United and Wales footballer Ched Evans has had his 2012 conviction for rape overturned by the Court of Appeal in a handed-down judgement a few days ago, so currently he has not been found guilty of that offence and his sentence no longer stands. However, he has not actually been acquitted either, and still stands accused of rape – consequently he faces a re-trial in the coming months.
To those of us who totally believe in justice, but are concerned about the inadequacies of our justice system and in particular its abysmal performance in dealing with rape, this is a disturbing case, isn’t it?
Erstwhile star striker Evans and a fellow footballer were apparently involved in a disgusting sexual escapade in a Welsh hotel room with a woman and were charged with rape. At trial this other guy was found not guilty by the jury, Evan’s wasn’t, was refused by the Judge permission to appeal though was nevertheless subsequently able to do so but lost, hence he served half his 5 year sentence in jail before early release eighteen months ago.
Therein lays one of the flaws in our justice process, because people get released on licence here anyway without serving their time, whether or not they have been rehabilitated, have admitted their crime, have shown remorse, or have even attended any counseling used to prevent reoffending
In Evan’s case he came out of jail vehemently proclaiming his innocence and unlike most people released, he was backed by a shed load of money. He then applied for his case to be reviewed by the system’s independent Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), which is the organisation charged with the legal responsibility of judging if there is any basis on which to ask the Courts to hear a fresh appeal – their ultimate decision though is not a judgment on guilt or innocence or anything else, in relation to any case. They normally would primarily deal with miscarriages of justice rather than a half spent case from a footballer, perhaps?
Regarding Evan’s application, the CCRC finally concluded that new material and fresh evidence favourable to the defence, not raised at the trial but now lodged by his lawyers, warranted the referral of the conviction to the Court of Appeal.
Normally applicants have to wait in line for years for a CCR review alone, let alone a hearing of their conviction, so a concerning element of these particular circumstances is that with nearly a thousand cases to review (with many of the applicants still stuck in jail), not only was the freed Evans’ application ‘fast tracked’ for actual investigation in weeks by the CCRC, but that body has said later that it had spent a full 10 months carrying out their investigation into the case.
Now that is a trifle surprising since this seemingly was a non-urgent case coming before the CCRC, and all that hardly sounds like non-preferential treatment, nor a clear ‘cut & dried matter’, does it?
The worrying factor here is that this particular application and treatment, involved a rich & famous individual, further bankrolled by a ‘prospective father in law’, who is extremely influential with high level contacts, and is very much a self-made massive multimillionaire, entrepreneur, businessman & company director (including being head of a major jewelry outfit with blue chip clients). This man, the father of Evans’ long-term girlfriend (and mother of his baby), is behind a website incorporating legally dubious statements supporting Evans, as well as providing his new legal team of expert dedicated lawyers and leading appeal barristers, who have been successful with their application and subsequent appeal.
To the average layman, it is difficult to comprehend how brand new evidence, apparently uncovered by expensive private detectives offering rewards, can suddenly come to light some 4 years late and 3 years AFTER a high profile case and well covered trial and two goes at appeal – but there you are?
People have to wonder if the justice system would deliver the same outcome of such priority treatment to your average person convicted of rape without the benefit of access to high profile press and media campaigns, eh? One can only speculate as to what part big sway and mega bucks have played in this current scenario, and also to why the Attorney General authorities have taken no action on a possible breach of the contempt of court laws by the Evans website – no evidence for criminal proceedings, pull the other one?
In the justice system of England & Wales, the criminal Court of Appeal only considers an appeal against conviction if either there was a serious error in the way the trial was run, or if there is compelling new evidence not available to the Jury at the original trial – such evidence has to appear capable of belief, be admissible, be a subject of appeal, and there has to be a reasonable reason why it wasn’t originally available at trial. If an appeal is won then the Court has the power to quash the conviction, vary the sentence, or order a new trial.
The Court’s decision in Evans’ appeal after a 2-day hearing a month ago was to quash the conviction but order a ‘new trial’ on the allegation of rape. That would mean that the new evidence presented to them was not compelling enough to warrant an immediate acquittal and required the decision of a Jury, wouldn’t it?
The brand new trial that Evans will now face will be quite different from the first, as the other accused man of course will not be facing the charges there alongside him as well – that will alter the whole nature and perception of things, won’t it? Furthermore, much evidence is now stale and all witness’ memories will have faded with time and open to challenge, so one has to have very-very little confidence that a retrial some 5 years after events can really deliver reliable justice, surely? Anyway that is what we will have to live with, in these unusual circumstances created by the Evans case, and just hope that truth and right will prevail on the final day.
The priority of the courts is as always to protect the integrity of any new trial ordered, so the Appeal Court won’t release their reasoning for their action here or their full judgement in this particular case until after the trial, so that it cannot be prejudiced or jeopardised either way.
Here we have another disturbing anomaly about our justice system, in that Evans has absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain in a retrial, as even if he is actually reconvicted he cannot be handed any heavier a sentence, so he certainly will not be heading back to prison, or anything else, whatever happens. If that fact diminishes the priority, time & effort and money that will be put into gaining a conviction by the Sate when there is no penalty at stake, is perhaps questionable?
The person who unfortunately always suffers in rape trials and the aftermath is the complainant, and this will be even more so in a retrial, many years after distressing events when they are trying to mend old scars, just to find that they often are brutally reopened in open court by the vile destructive accusational behaviours of defence barristers (how comes the judges still allow them to get away with it, eh?).
Not only that, but the system is woefully inadequate in protecting the ‘promised’ full lifetime anonymity of the most vulnerable complainants in rape cases, so the person’s name is regularly and routinely leaked particularly in high profile cases, often by the accused themselves, or their relatives, friends and supporters – and as a consequence the victim is further extensively attacked and traumatised together with their family by false, vindictive, derogatory allegations, personal abuse, and name calling comments, using abusive online posts on modern social media which involves thousands upon thousands of attacks, that our current toothless laws seem incapable of dealing with – despite so-called ‘robust police investigations’.
Even when these criminal morons are identified and convicted in court, they face little retribution for either circulating a victim’s identity or destructively abusing them online on the likes of twitter – despite the fact that there is an albeit inadequate punishment of up to a five thousand pounds fine (meaningless to the football fraternity and the like of course) [Only about ten people from Wales and Sheffield were done for actually publishing the woman’s name in the Evans’ case but they did include family and friends – all the guilty getting derisory penalties of only hundreds and not thousands of pounds].
[Recorded rape has risen by a third in the past year alone, so now has doubled in the last decade, and that is the tip of the iceberg – because rape and sexual assault is so commonplace in England & Wales, that it is inflicted on about a third of all women, but hardly any of them finally report the assault, as currently the law enforcers in Britain bring only a few percent even of them to justice. All disgraceful statistics for our great nation, don’t you think?].