The Ched Evans website is still out there, picturing and denigrating the woman whose identity, by the laws of this land, should be sacrosanct. The Home Secretary, Theresa May, is among those who have provided a reminder that any threat to the anonymity of Evans’ rape victim is a gravely serious offence. North Wales Police threatened prosecution of any who breached the law by disclosing it. But chedevans.com travels blithely on, driven by its sense of victimhood.
“The Ministry of Justice allows those under appeal to use the internet through a third party to make serious representation about their innocence,” the website now protests, in defence of its content, which, apart from blurred images of the victim, includes images of a pink Mini Cooper and a sunshine island to illustrate what it purports were the motivating factor for her. The ugliness of this repository knows no bounds. If those who are motivated to publish it were not so blinded by their hatred, they might be able to see that there is a civilised way for Evans to pursue his claims of innocence, enshrined in the laws of our land.
Last week, a panel of three from the Criminal Cases Review Commission decided, after hearing evidence and reading a draft document prepared by a case worker, that it wanted further investigation into the case before deciding whether to refer to the Court of Appeal Evans’ conviction for rape – which brought a five-year prison sentence, of which he served two and a half. Commissioners’ requests for additional inquiries are not uncommon, says the CCRC, which will not provide a percentage to help me understand how uncommon. But the request, issued 10 months into the CCRC’s investigation of the case, illustrates the level of rigour being applied.
It may come to pass that the judge’s closing remarks to the Evans trial jurors will have significance. It will be for the commissioners to decide whether Judge Merfyn Hughes QC might have unreasonably influenced them by restating that Evans had a previous conviction for dishonesty – telling insurers he had lost a mobile phone which he was subsequently found to be using. His co-defendant, Clayton McDonald, who had also been in a north Wales hotel room with the victim on May Day bank holiday 2011, had no such conviction. He was acquitted of the rape charge.
The CCRC is thought to have allowed Evans’ new legal team to get affidavits for new witness statements. That could be significant if some with relevant evidence to give were not part of the original investigation. That line of inquiry was key to the re-examination of the case of Stephen Downing, the 17-year-old council worker convicted in 1974 of the murder of a legal secretary at a graveyard in Bakewell, Derbyshire, and acquitted by the Court of Appeal in 2002.
Witness statements secured by Don Hale, a freelance investigative journalist, were instrumental in him helping secure Downing’s release. Hale was the first to re-examine the Evans case, at the request of the player’s mother, Helen Roberts, and his sisters Kylie and Nicola. He concludes that this line of inquiry should be worthwhile.
Hale has not been involved since the family of Evans’ girlfriend, Natasha Massey, took over the drive to secure an appeal, which has included the establishment of the website and the engagement of a new legal team led by Shaun Draycott, of the Draycott Browne firm’s serious crime department, and the Garden Court Chambers, London. Other questions may include: did another unrelated attack on a young woman on the night of the Evans incident affect the course of the inquiry? Should footage from 12 CCTV cameras, with three of particular significance, have been a central part of the trial?
Such is the rigour with which the case is being re-examined, yet behind all that industry lies a very blunt reality for Evans. It is that the way he has allowed the course of the past few years to be shaped – with vitriolic attacks on his victim – has made his name so toxic that the prospect of him meaningfully picking up a career is all but gone. His attempts to maintain his fitness, with a personal trainer, are thought to be continuing in Cheshire. One source suggests there had been a faint hope on his part that a decision from the CCRC might have kept alive a slim chance of a part in the Wales Euro 2016 set-up.
Instead, the deliberations go on. The CCRC won’t put a time frame on things, other than to counter my suggestion that it could be nine months before its three appointed commissioners make a judgment. That seems pessimistically long, the commission says. We may be deep into 2016 before a judgement is forthcoming, though, and heading towards 2017 before any prospect of Evans reappearing at a level as high as League One. A resolution, one way or the other, might have been more elementary had this case been pursued through the appropriate legal channels. But it has become an incredibly sensitive case because Evans – and what he has come to represent – has become better known than any second or third-tier player ought.
For his relentless lack of contrition and the example he sets to young men the nation over, he only has himself to blame.
'You’ll get grief if you put up a Refugees Welcome banner'
Let the Premier League football club remain nameless, though it seemed worth establishing what the response would be to a request to bring a “Refugees Welcome” banner into their ground.
“Well, I would say that I think we kind of get that message now,” says the banner official. “You’ll need to tell me where you are sitting. You may get grief from other fans. We’ve received emails from people saying they don’t come to our ground for politics. One has told us if he sees a banner like this he won’t come to a game again. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against it, but you’ll get grief.”
You look at the way the Bundesliga and its players have embraced those who don’t choose to seek refuge here. You consider the cold, meagre insularity of the English game’s response. And your heart sinks.
Burger can easily tackle a mere opening ceremony
The Namibians are a robust rugby nation but so low on heritage in the sport that they had to help the organisers out on Friday for the World Cup opening ceremony’s parade of legendary greats. For the All Blacks we had Sean Fitzpatrick, for South Africa Chester Williams and for England Martin Johnson. In the absence of any other recognisable Namibian, they threw in one of their current squad: Jacques Burger. They knew he wouldn’t flinch. #thingsjacquesburgercantackle was recently trending on Twitter. Rhinos and articulated lorries featured.
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