Ched Evans: Release, Retribution and Rehabilitation
In April 2012 Ched Evans, the former Wales and Sheffield United striker, was convicted of raping a 19-year-old woman in a hotel room in Rhyl, Denbighshire. It is a shocking and a wholly unacceptable crime for him to have committed.
Last month Evans was released after serving half of his 5-year prison sentence. Upon his release, and following a request from his union and the PFA, Sheffield United offered Evans the opportunity to train with the club. It was, though, emphasised by the club at the time that no decision had been made about whether to offer Evans a new contract.1 However, following days of stinging public criticism of the club from pressure groups,2 local politicians,3 sponsors,4 celebrities5 let alone members of the public,6 the club retracted its training offer to Evans.7
It is in that high-profile context that this article will consider how the law operates in relation to convictions of Evans’ kind as well as looking at policy arguments about the rehabilitation of offenders, especially within the world of football.
Modern society, by way of its criminal laws, believes that an offender should be punished for their crime - the more serious the offence, the stiffer the punishment. However, it has also recognised that once the punishment has been served, the offender should be rehabilitated back into society having served their “time”. 8
In terms of the approach to the punitive aspect of a conviction, an effective checklist is followed by the presiding judge to determine the appropriate sentence. Even for a very serious crime such as rape, the law distinguishes between the worst possible types of circumstances and others that do not fall into that category. That distinction, or range of approaches, takes into account, first, the level of harm to the victim and, secondly, the culpability of the accused: Sexual Offences Definitive Guideline: Rape and assault offences, 2013. As to the level of harm, consideration is given to a number of factors, including the vulnerability of the victim, their age and the nature of the offence itself.9 In relation to culpability, the actions or attitudes of the offender in committing the crime are also taken into account: Sexual offences Definitive Guideline, 2013.10 It is only once those two steps have been undertaken that the appropriate sentence is determined.11
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John Mehrzad QC was appointed Silk after only 13 years’ practice – the fastest appointee in the 2019 competition. With a background in employment law and commercial law, his sports law at Littleton Chambers, London, practice focuses, on the one hand, on financial disputes between clubs, managers, players, intermediaries, associations and commercial partners – usually before FA, PL or EFL arbitrations, or before FIFA or the CAS.
Seyra Dagadu has a keen interest in Commercial Law and the profession of sports. He has a background in Law and Business from the University of Warwick where he also played football winning both the league and varsity cups.