Tag Archives: Sheffield United


Petition To Stop Ched Evans' Sheffield Return

Q: Over the next few days, we’ll get a decision on Ched Evans’ application for a review of his rape conviction. A lot hangs on this decision, right?

A: Yes: the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) met last Tuesday to discuss the former Wales and Sheffield United player’s case and is expected to reach a decision over the next few days. If the CCRC turns down Evans’ application, then the player can apply again, but his chances will not improve. If, on the other hand, the CCRC gives him permission to pursue his appeal against conviction, then it will effectively turn this case inside out. And there will be consequences.

Q: How come? Evans (pictured above), as our readers will recall, was released from prison last year after serving half of his five-year sentence for the rape of a 19-year-old woman in a hotel in Rhyl in April 2012. What impact will an appeal have?

A: Think about it: the CCRC has to decide whether there is something in the case that justifies an appeal. Although it hasn’t yet been disclosed, it’s widely thought that Evans presented “fresh evidence” to support his argument that he is innocent. Let’s not forget he’s maintained his innocence all along and has never wavered. A CCRC spokeswoman said last week: “The committee decided that further investigation was needed before it meets again to make a final decision on whether or not to refer Mr. Evans’ conviction back to the court of appeal.” Three judges at the Court of Appeal rejected an earlier appeal against Evans’s conviction in 2012.

Q: So, let me get this straight: you’re saying that Evans could still be declared innocent or be made to stand trial all over again?

A: Yes. If CCRC decide the fresh evidence is not strong enough to warrant an appeal, Evans is left to ponder his next move. If he proceeds to the Court of Appeal, judges will consider whether to overturn the conviction or order a retrial.

Q: So presumably, if the CCRC approves his application, it will mean effectively that the panel has considered his case in detail, studied what may be fresh evidence and determined that this is some doubt in the original verdict. Will this change the minds of Evans’ critics?

A: Doubt it. They’ve argued that Evans should not be permitted to return to football: campaigners on sexual violence emphasize Evans’ lack of contrition and refusal to accept court findings as to his guilt. He’s never apologized and stuck to his guns. So that aspect won’t change. But it would theoretically make it possible for prospective employers – football clubs, in other words – to offer him a job. Any employer has a duty of care to its existing employees who, particularly if female, might be uncomfortable working with Evans. But if Evans is allowed to proceed with his appeal, it will make a few clubs wonder which side they’re on. If Evans conviction remains, they will be convinced of the rightness of their original decision not to consider him for a job. If Evans is ultimately proved innocent, then an awful lot of people and organizations will reflect on how they’ve contributed to the stigmatization of someone they assumed was an offender but was in reality a victim himself.

Q: I see what you mean. Since he was released from prison, there has been such intense condemnation; Evans hasn’t been able to get a job at a professional football club. Evans has made attempts to restart his career but potential moves to Oldham Athletic and his former club Sheffield United collapsed in the face of public outcry. And he can’t work abroad because he’s obliged to report back to Britain as a sex offender every week. I know we can’t read thoughts, but what do you imagine Evans has argued in his application?

A: Evans, we assume will repeat his original claim that he had consensual sex with the woman concerned. This wasn’t accepted, remember. Evans’ victim was drunk. When he went to the hotel where one of his friends had taken her, she was in no state to consent to have sex with a total stranger who had just walked into the room. The judge at Evans’s trial, Merfyn Hughes QC, was clear on this point: ‘The complainant was extremely intoxicated … She was in no condition to have sexual intercourse.” So Evans will have to disclose previously unknown information; the intriguing aspect of this is the “fresh evidence.” What is it?

Q: What will happen now?

A: Well, one decision will leave things about the same. The other will have explosive consequences.


Give a dog a bad name … or another chance?

Marlon King vs Antwerp

Do you believe in rehabilitation? I mean after prison: do you think training, therapy and other methods can restore an ex-offender back to a normal functioning life after a period behind bars? I do. Not so much because I have great faith in the power of our probation service or cognitive behavioural therapy, but simply because the alternative is so defeatist.

So why am I writing about this? Two reasons. This week thousands of probation workers joined nationwide protests to claim that public safety will be jeopardised by the Government’s plans to transfer the community supervision of most former offenders to private companies. Britain’s National Probation Service has been around in one form or another since 1907, but it faces the prospect of being dismantled and having its functions contracted out to private companies, such as G4S and Serco. Probation officers’ unions argue that placing the responsibility for monitoring offenders after release to private firms will not only put communities at risk, but will threaten jobs in the probation service.

The argument would have a lot more force if the National Probation Service was doing a bang-up job itself. The truth is that it is not: six out of ten people who leave prison are re-convicted within two years. This is far from the worst recidivism rate in the world, but it’s not encouraging either. By contrast, the recidivism rate for prisoners in Norway is around 20 per cent. About 67 per cent of America’s prisoners are re-arrested and 52 per cent are re-incarcerated. A recidivist is a convicted criminal who breaks the law again after punishment.

Marlon King is a recidivist. He is also a professional footballer. He was released from prison in July 2010, after being sentenced to eighteen months for sexual assault and assault occasioning bodily harm; his employer Wigan Athletic sacked him after his conviction. He was placed on the sex offenders’ register for seven years. Earlier this year, he was arrested in connection with a hit-and-run incident, which had left a man injured. This week, he signed to play football for Sheffield United of League One. Many fans have reacted furiously, insisting that they would return season tickets and boycott games while he remained on the club’s books. King has experienced this before: immediately on his release he played for Coventry City amid fans’ protests. Interestingly, Birmingham City fans did not react when he moved to their club in 2011. You can see Sheffield fans’ point of view: King has a long line of offences dating back to 1997; he is, in many ways, a model reoffender – and I mean by model a representative example, not a good example. Sheffield fans have decided he is beyond redemption. Are they right?

My feeling is that King knows only one way to earn a living. He has played professional football since 1998 and, at 33, has got only a few more competitive years left in the sport. So far, he has shown few signs of a successful rehabilitation. But if there is a sliver of hope, it lies in football. The sport could still be his salvation. Forgive the pious tone: readers will know I am a practical man and I am still being practical. I don’t know what King would be doing now were it not for his ability to play football. I do have strong suspicions though. And I think anyone who is familiar with his life will share those suspicions.

He’s certainly no role model, but nor is any footballer no matter how virtuous they may seem. King is just plying his trade in an industry that does not demand impeccable moral qualities, or spiritual uprightness: footballers are not high-minded, right-thinking, incorruptible, scrupulous, guiltless, respectable people; they just play football. But that argument can save for another time. My point here is simple: if, as a nation, we have decided that justice is important, we should pay attention to one of its central precepts: fairness of treatment. King has served his sentence and should be allowed to resume his professional life as best he can. Football may yet to be his method of rehabilitation. Readers might reply, “don’t hold your breath,” but I am certain this is a better option than the alternative. Ex-offenders are stigmatized in the sense that they’re labelled as worthy of disgrace or social disapproval and find it difficult to re-integrate back into society. That alone accounts for the return of many to prison: they just can’t find work or any kind of acceptance. It’s difficult to shrug a bad reputation, even if it’s unjustified. We have an expression for this, of course: give a dog a bad name and hang him. King is fortunate enough to be granted a chance to redeem himself. He may not take that chance. But I for one prefer a world in which a chances are offered and spurned to one in which they are not offered at all.