After weeks of talks, much speculation and plenty of public opinion Jewish-owned Oldham Athletic football club have confirmed they will not be signing convicted rapist Ched Evans.
What with the public backlash against Oldham and, previously, Sheffield United – Evans’ former team – it is unlikely that any other clubs will attempt negotiations, so no doubt the Twitter hordes and angry petition-signers, who opposed the proposed signing, will be happy. But they shouldn’t be.
They have effectively overruled our justice system by deciding that what they think and feel is more important than the law. In denying Evans’s his right to rehabilitation they have chosen mob justice over actual justice. For if we are to believe in the justice system, which places an emphasis on the rehabilitation of criminals, how can we not support Evans’s efforts to regain meaningful employment and become a contributing tax-paying member of society once more?
In this week’s JC Northwood United Synagogue rebbetzin Ilana Freedman questioned whether Evans’ should be forgiven, but forgiveness is not the issue here, rehabilitation is.
As we are all now well aware the former Sheffield United player was convicted of raping a 19-year-old woman in 2011. He began his five year prison sentence in 2012 and was released on licence after serving half the sentence. This is all completely standard under UK law and the case has passed through jury, judge and probation officer to get to this stage.
Whether or not the public are happy with his prison sentence should be irrelevant. The reason we, and all free societies, have an impartial justice system is to avoid judicial decisions being made based on the emotional responses of people.
Ever since Evans was released from prison and it was announced that Sheffield United were considering re-signing the player tens of thousands have signed petitions to put pressure on clubs not to sign him, advertisers have threatened to remove sponsorship, and public figures have thrown in their tuppence-worth too.
Tony Lloyd, crime commissioner for Greater Manchester, wrote an open letter claiming it would be wrong to sign Evans because he has shown “no remorse”, while Vera Baird, Northumbria police and crime commissioner, wrote an open letter to Oldham Athletic sponsor Sports Direct urging them to break ties with the club if they signed him. And Ed Miliband said he "wouldn’t sign Evans" if he was manager of Oldham.
Luke Gittos, law editor at Spiked, said it best: “How the hell can these elected public officials, in positions of high authority, think it is appropriate to engage in this ugly witch hunt? Who do they think they are?”
No one is above the law. If the courts deem Evans ready for freedom and rehabilitation then our politicians should have nothing to add.
Much of the outrage against Evans is claimed to be because of his lack of remorse: he has not said sorry. Well I’m sorry, but that is not part of the deal. Obligations of remorse are not given out with a prison sentence. Once a convicted criminal has served their time they have the right to try to re-build their lives, even if they have not apologised for their actions.
Besides which, as has been widely reported, Evans upholds that he is innocent and the Criminal Cases Review Commission is studying his case, so legally he cannot apologise as it would admit liability. His bizarre semi-apology, issued yesterday after Oldham’s announcement, was no doubt triggered by the immense public pressure and has already been criticised.
The other reason constantly repeated by the hordes in their self-righteous anger is “role model”. It would be OK with them if Evans worked again, but not as a footballer because apparently kids look up to them; even Prime Minister David Cameron said Oldham should “weigh the decision very carefully” due to footballers being seen as “role models”. The insinuation being that any little girls or boys who see Evans back on the pitch will end up being rapists. How ludicrous.
Parents are responsible for ensuring their children have good role models to look up to, it is no one else’s business.
For some reason there is a mob determined to make an example of Ched Evans despite the fact that footballers like Luke McCormick, jailed for killing two boys by drunk driving in 2008, is back on the pitch today.
They argue that it is wrong for an unrepentant rapist to be given a second chance. But they are the ones who are wrong. Justice and rehabilitation are the privilege and right of all members of a free society, even criminals.