Ched Evans- blame the rapist not the victim   3 comments

I was waiting outside of a court for a sentencing on one of my cases.  There were the families of three young people awaiting a separate sentencing near me.  One of the accused got 13 years.  As a reaction one of the weeping matriarchs blamed the police, the co-accused, the barrister and eventually the victim family for “over-reacting”.  I checked the case and saw that the victims held culpable were an elderly couple whose home had been invaded.  They had been assaulted, tied up and threatened with firearms as part of the robbery.

Perhaps this is an understandable reaction from family shocked by the sentence?  In terms of the Ched Evans trial you might argue that Sheffield United players and the fans are a sort of “family”.  The initial reaction is part of the shock from the result.  However, unless you regard young men (and some women) as some tight-knit community, the reaction to the conviction on social networking sites has been inexplicable.  Like the couple violently assaulted the young lady sexually assaulted has no culpability.

You have to realise that footballers are not role models.  In the main they are young men who just have a lot more money and attention than their peers.  They are also from a population where education has not been a priority; their every aim has been football rather than effective schooling for life.  A three-year pro contract for a 21-year old is like a lottery win.  Whether it is six balls or five and a bonus depends on whether it is from a Premiership club!

Like young lottery winners crimes by footballers tend to receive greater media attention than other offenders.  With about one in seven young men having a criminal record you might expect, even excluding offences prompted by poverty, that a fair few footballers will be in trouble with the law.  There are myriad reported cases involving drink, public order, violence and sexual assault.  Like the rest of the population there are caring, compassionate and intelligent footballers at clubs but there are always idiots.

Some of the questionable comments on twitter and Facebook did come from footballers but of course the vast majority were not from the ranks of the soccer professionals.  I do not even think that the majority of those supporting Evans are Sheffield United fans.  Among Blades are many who have condemned their player and accepted the verdict.  What is disturbing is a widespread assumption that the victim, the young lady who was raped, deserves no sympathy and is somehow responsible for the incident.  Some have gone as far as to suggest that by some means this is an attempt to derive personal benefit from having been the victim of the assault.

Those going off on twitter rants or instigating infantile on-line campaigns just show how little they know the legal process and the law concerning rape.  In terms of the sexual offence the British Crime Survey suggests that only one in a hundred of women raped will see their attacker convicted.  This is a figure skewed by the number who having been assaulted, do not report the matter.  That reluctance to report is why work has been done and must continue to be done to support the victims of rape.  The fact that only about 7% of those who do report rape see a conviction is still a self-defeating statistic.  The difficulty getting a conviction is one of the reasons why there has to be anonymity in these cases.

It is entirely proper that the police arrest those who named the victim in this case as a deterrent for the future so as to reassure those coming forward to report rapes are not dissuaded by the thought of becoming a trend on twitter.  Some might make a case for all justice being open in terms of victims or for equal anonymity for alleged perpetrators until convicted but I agree with the law as it is at present.  It does look like that law has been broken by those naming the victim and possibly those abusing her.

There are cases where false reports of rape are filed but these are insignificant numbers at the side of the unreported assaults.  Such false claims are always wrong and they too cause victims and of course undermine the legal process and cast doubt on the prosecution of cases.  Those who choose to equate this case to those where a false claim has been made do the CPS a disservice.  The nature of intimate human relations is such that one often doesn’t know what goes on in the bedroom, or anywhere else an act of intercourse goes on.  Where rape is alleged and it is simply a matter of consent with the two parties disputing whether it was given then there will usually be too much doubt to bring a prosecution.

Here there seems to be a more complex case and one where the jury, having heard the evidence rather than reading tweets or newspapers, determined that there was no doubt that the victim did not consent to sex with Evans.  That penetration without consent is rape.  Whether it occurs by taking advantage of someone incapable through drink or by pointing a knife at someone’s throat it is still rape.  The difference in the circumstances should be reflected in sentencing not by persecuting the victim because the attack was by a celebrity in a hotel room rather than a masked stranger on a canal towpath.  The five year sentence in this case is exactly appropriate based on the sentencing guidelines.

The only question is whether the victim consented to Evans having sex with her.  That victim’s sexual history, possible promiscuity or subsequent motivations are immaterial.  The fact that her attacker is a highly paid footballer and “could have had any girl in that nightclub” is also irrelevant if he had sex with a drunken girl without her approval.  After a two-week trial twelve people decided unanimously that this was the case.

The fact that Evans, co-accused was found not guilty does not reflect any better on Evans.  The circumstances of McDonald coming to be in the room with the woman were not analogous to Evan’s arrival there and let the jury to see a reasonable doubt in the Crown’s case.  That of course doesn’t mean that the victim is lying just that the jury could not be sure beyond doubt.  If an acquittal proved prosecution witnesses were liars than I would have been in trouble a couple of times!

Some will point out that Evans has said that he will appeal and so wonder if the case will take another turn.  That appeal cannot be based simply on the argument that the jury got it wrong.  There has either to be a mistake by the Judge or new evidence that the defence was not aware of at the time of the conviction.  Less than a third of appeals ever get to a hearing.

To defend the vilification of the victim in this case by suggesting that she is not only promiscuous but also seeking financial reward is both cruel and ironic.  (I am not sure her attackers put it quite that way using terms like slag, tramp and money-grabber.)  The irony comes from accounts the male footballers boasting that they could have any woman based on their wealth and tweeters identifying the victim whose anonymity usually prevents the attack being a means of making money!

I actually know nothing about the victim’s personality other than her gender and her age; I expect that most attacking her know little more.  What is sure following the verdict is that she is a victim of a serious sexual assault.  To blame that victim instead of the man who raped her is ridiculous!

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3 responses to “Ched Evans- blame the rapist not the victim

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  1. I have to add that it is good that those who are alleged to have identified the victim of this rape are now before the courts.

    • Oh dear where does one start? The Twitter trial will turn into a retrial of the “victim”. 10% to 12% minima figures were returned under an FOI request made by me earlier this year to 40 constabularies showed false allegations in rape cases . Any trial will become a focus on the demise of free speech. Oh and one final thing, there is no anonymity for rape trial defendants (Assange, Evans) surely that is contrary to ECHR legislation?

  2. I note that the justice system has again been active surrounding this case.

    Nine of the ten people charged with naming the victim have pleaded guilty to offences under the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act, 1992. Those charges only carry a maximum sentence of a fine. Those close to Evans who, in the District Judge’s view, acted with “deliberate malice” seem to have escaped quite lightly. There is still one case that has been listed for trial following a not guilty plea.

    The other development this week is the rejection at the Court of Appeal of Evans’ right to appeal. This was not unexpected as a single judge had already rejected the application and an appeal would only be granted if there was fresh evidence or an error by the original trial judge. In fact the Court of Appeal said, “We can see no possible basis which would justify us interfering with the verdict of the jury, which heard all the evidence and reflected on it after careful summing up by the judge.”

    I expect this will be the end of the process for Evans and, despite a contested case by one who named her, will mean closure for the victim.

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