Ok - thanks to the gent who wanted to argue the toss with me about this yesterday.
In case you missed it, Ched Evans and his legal team claim to have new evidence, which was not available in his first trial - one which resulted in the Wales international footballer being convicted of rape. If there really is new and unseen material going into the Criminal Cases Review Commission (and you'd be curious as to the confidence of his solicitor were this not so) then it opens up a rather dark and unfortunate possibility, namely that Evans' most serious crime was that of committing adultery on his long-term partner and his two and a half years spent in jail were for precisely nothing. I have no idea whether or not he committed the crime, but unlike many who seem determined to declare Evans 100 per cent guilty (or totally innocent, as some 'fans' of his have a tendency to do) it makes rational sense to me if we let the legal process run its course without appointing ourselves as judge, jury and executioner.
It's worth being absolutely clear about this - Evans is a man with a rape conviction who continues to protest his innocence long after leaving prison. Most guilty people who ran the gauntlet with the legal system before being convicted, eventually admit to their crimes while serving a spell in chokey, perhaps as part of the 'games that people play' otherwise known as the early release scheme. Many maintain to their dying day that 'they never done it' and, of those, a fair proportion will actually be innocent. The number of people currently behind bars for crimes they didn't actually commit is, by definition, an impossible number to quantify. What we 'know' about virtually anything illegal is that far from all of those who committed the crime end up being convicted. The flipside of that coin is that far from all of those convicted were actually guilty.
All we have is the fact that somebody was deemed by a judge or a jury to be guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Then again, do we even have that? Something to revisit later, methinks...
I've dealt elsewhere with the 'argument' over whether or not Evans, or someone in his situation, should be 'allowed' to play football again, genuinely guilty or otherwise. Being realistic, there's no danger of him running into the crowd and raping someone during a match, pouncing on an unsuspecting League official, TV cameraman or whatever. The job itself is not one in which there is inherent vulnerability and a sense of endangerment for other people, as there would be were he looking to become (for example) a nurse, gynocologist or schoolteacher. There is no rational, practical or occupational reason why someone convicted of rape should not be allowed to play in a professional football match where there are thousands of 'witnesses' to any potential crime, right? So we're into all that 'role model' bullshit, sorry, I mean, argument.
Apparently, Evans would be a 'role model' to millions, so shouldn't be allowed to play football, even at a level where practically nobody watches, there is no risk of the games being televised and so he would be a 'role model' to virtually nobody. Now, when I've punched holes in this bollocks previously, I've been met by the response that this applies strictly to kids, as if a person's sixteenth or eighteenth birthday equates to some mammoth 'eureka' moment at which he or she ceases to be impressionable having been little more than a sad drone beforehand. Have the half-wits spouting this actually spoken to anybody under the age of 25 recently? Does anyone seriously think a fourteen year old kid is going to watch a football match in which Evans is just one of twenty-two players on the pitch and reflect at full-time that he should rape someone on the way home as a sort of twisted homage to his new hero? Really?
Let's suppose that for someone, somewhere this is actually true. I'm sorry, but if your choice of 'role model' is a complete arsehole then that's entirely your fault. If you're so incredibly fucking docile, incapable of independent thought that you can't see their mistakes and misbehaviours as what they are, feel a burning requirement to impersonate every last thing your 'role model' might have done in his or her life then the 'role models' meriting closer (and indeed harsher) examination are much nearer to home. It is of course different when the bad or non-mentors are your parents or carers, but a footballer is, like a musician or actor, someone you can take or leave, perhaps draw a very narrow form of inspiration from, but do you really need to emulate him or her to the letter? The simple answer is...of course you don't.
Did young fans of teams Paul McGrath played for all develop drink problems? I don't recall Arsenal or Liverpool supporters in the 1990s taking to drink-driving on an industrial scale by way of a big 'thumbs up' to Tony Adams or Jan Molby. Maybe followers of West Bromwich Albion, a club for whom Lee Hughes scored goals and achieved cult status, jump in their cars and mow people down for a laugh, or smash into other vehicles from behind in the hope of killing as many people as possible? After all, many of them will have been kids themselves when their hero, the carrot-topped goal-poacher Hughes, committed manslaugher while at the wheel and made the cowardly, diabolical decision to speed away from the scene of what nobody disputes was an accident. I mean, young people automatically emulate every last thing footballers do, right? Or so I'm told...
There are two dimensions to this. One is the determination of parents to blame the failings of themselves and, by extension, their kids, on some 'famous person' who wasn't quite as good a 'role model' as they should have been. Look, if you're letting 'famous people' raise your kids by proxy then your concern for 'society' should perhaps have extended to arranging to have yourself sterilised before it was too late. If those kids are so lost, so bereft of guidance that they are taking the life story of some new 'hero' of theirs and feeling the urge to act out every last moment of it, then the first thing this serves as a 'reflection' on is your fitness (or, more to the point, complete unsuitability) as a parent. We've got the state teaching sex education, good manners and 'citizenship', whatever that is. Now it's the duty of anyone and everyone who was ever 'in the public eye' to raise the next generation.
And you, Mr footballer/pop star/actor, are personally responsible for every last bad thing somebody under the age of eighteen might do, be it shoplifting or murder. Nobody is to blame for their own mis-steps, mistakes or misbehaviours. Nor are their parents, or their teachers, or their priests for that matter. Everything is the fault of those awful 'famous people' who failed as 'role models', didn't set a 'good example' and so led the 'impressionable youth astray'. Now we've established that, I'd like to declare that since I once watched Lester Pigott riding a horse at Chepstow after he'd left prison, I won't be paying income tax from now on. When I was equally young and impressionable, I also saw Tony Adams and Jan Molby play IN THE SAME MATCH on TV (yikes!!), so you can't blame me if I drink fifteen pints, jump in a car and drive it like a madman, can you?
I was just a kid when I saw all this, so I have no choice, right?
Then there's the "boy done too good" angle, which is a curious thing since it pulls in precisely the opposite direction to that we'd normally have in mind when exploring the 'rehabilitation' of offenders. I remember watching a boxing match a few years ago in which one of the contestants was introduced by the commentator as having not been long out of prison for the not insignificant crime of involvement in an armed robbery. "You've got to give credit to anyone who turns his life around" he says as the fighter is announced to the crowd and proceeds to blow his opponent out in a couple of rounds. Well, yes you have, and you've got to dangle that carrot in front of people that they can make the most of themselves after leaving prison, that nobody should be pressurised or intimidated out of offering them a lawful opportunity.
No doubt someone who remembers having a gun pointed at them found the sight of his assailant in a boxing ring to be somewhat distasteful, but what's the genuine alternative? Give up on rehabilitation altogether? One strike and you're out? That's a hell of a lot of unemployable people, a massive financial and moral price imposed on all of us to sate the contrived sense of outrage felt by some. I've heard this qualified by people who insist they have no problem with someone in Evans' position getting a 'normal' job which doesn't pay too much money or put him 'in the public eye'. So, would you disqualify him from starting his own business in case it did too well? As for 'the public eye' well he could manage that by pulling a drowning child out of a river - are you suggesting he should 'get his head down' and just let the kid die instead?
I mean, can't have him 'hailed as a hero' in the papers can we?
What else do we disqualify him, and others in his position going forward, from doing?
You know you're going to have to draw up a list of other 'proscribed careers' now, don't you?
Or did you not stop to consider the can of worms you were opening?
The curious thing is, most making such noises would usually be 100 per cent behind the idea of an offender rehabilitating themselves, even celebrating the efforts of those who have done so. They would also, based on my personal experiences with some of them, be totally open to the idea that a person who protests their innocence after release and is fighting to clear his or her name, might actually be innocent. It would be several stratospheres from being the first time a person was wrongly convicted of a very serious offence and then released - just ask messrs Conlon, Kizsko (RIP both) and George to name three. Yet on both counts, otherwise sane, rational and intelligent men and women alike have suddenly morphed en masse into an army of shrieking, hysterical twats. The sound of tumbleweed and marbles simultaneously hurtling down the road as people take leave of their senses is a curious one.
There will be no real rehabilitation for Evans. 'Society' now decides what he can and cannot do for a living, and presumably, the next time there is a recession, his employer will be required to sack him so his job can be taken by a more 'worthy' individual. This punishment of someone who has already served his time will never really stop. Resuming his football career is off-limits now that employees of a club who conisdered employing him were threatened with murder and cyber-vigilantes also pledged to burn the ground down. This of course is what happens when 'society' hands justice over to that most lofty of institutions, the much-loved 'court of public opinion'. Vigilantism becomes almost noble. Threats of murder, arson or the destruction of property are suddenly justified by the 'pariah' status of the target. Innocents caught in the crossfire are the proverbial eggs without whom no omlette could ever be made.
Whatever Evans did or did not do, these scum are worse and more dangerous by an order of magnitude. There, I said it.
It may look from a distance as though many of these people regard rape as a more serious crime than deliberate murder, which it cannot be, although it's clearly no minor league offence. I can't possibly know whether or not they do, but the most apparent aspect of the Ched Evans case which few have touched upon is the political dimension to the type of crime he is alleged to have committed and, as it stands, is currently convicted of. For all sorts of reasons, some totally understandable, rape draws an emotional response from people that (almost) no other crime could match. Nobody with half a brain disputes that there was an era in our history where women were little more than the property of their husbands, and nor would they want to return to it. It was a brutal, degrading and somewhat embarrassing chapter, especially when one considers how only recently it ended.
But the other crime I think of immediately when I look at the 'emotional aspect' of rape is actually, wait for it...terrorism, Ok, pick your glass back up and let me run this past you. Like rape, the act of terrorism draws an emotional response from people and has collective, political connotations. Terrorists, like rapists, evoke genuine fear that borders on irrational panic amongst those who have (thank Christ) never suffered it and it's highly unlikely to ever happen to them. Because of this, smart, sane individuals lose sight of simple and important details when dealing with either. The presumption of innocence gets turned on its head, the 'suspect' is guilty as sin, ripe to be hung drawn and quartered, unless someone on the prosecution side suddenly gets up in court and admits they were lying through their teeth, made the whole thing up.
Just as many people remained convinced that Gerry Conlon 'got off on a technicality' after his release (he was actually innocent), winning on appeal won't be enough to redeem Evans in the eyes of many. I've even heard otherwise intelligent people say he should be 'allowed' to play football again if he 'proves himself innocent'. Hang on, shithead - if he wins on appeal, it's not for you, me or anyone else to 'allow' him to play football - he can do what the hell he wants. As far as 'proving himself innocent' goes, well, that impossible to achieve by definition. Unless his accuser states openly that she accused him maliciously, it will not be known 100% either way whether or not he did it - and no doubt being innocent in the eyes of the law will not be enough for some of the self-appointed mob dispensing their uniquely populist take on 'justice'. Some of them, I suspect, are having too much fun trying to wreck the guy's life, guilty or not.
Every couple of years the "how do we make trials easier for rape victims?" question comes up on the news wheel. A move away from adversarial justice to an inquisitorial system would probably be the single most sensible way in which both the genuine victim could be spared the most brutal aspects of cross-examination, while the malicious, the vindictive, the deranged and the attention-seeking would not have the opportunity to dupe the butcher, baker and candlestick maker, aided by their own theatrical performer in a gown and wig. When questions of dignity and decency on the most basic level become nothing more than a game played out between two actors, each hoping to persuade you to vote for them, it's a racing certainty that those least deserving of brutal and harsh treatment will invariably find themselves on the receiving end.
That victim could be the genuinely raped person, or the falsely accused defendant - it might make great television for the unemployable, but justice isn't the word I'd use to describe it.
Then again, when politicians in particular ask that question, this isn't what they mean. The 'terrorist threat' has been used by the political class to justify six weeks in jail without 1) charge or the prospect or release 2) the right to see the evidence against you and 3) any form of legal representation whatsoever. Anti-terrorism laws have been used to arrest, amongst other things, drunk people at peaceful demonstrations and an octogenarian heckler who shouted "rubbish!!" at a cabinet minister during a speech at the Labour Party conference. Oh, and lest we forget they very, very nearly had it increased to THREE MONTHS and they're now looking at carte-blanche to rifle through the private correspondence of anyone they want without legal process or the need for a warrant. No phone call or e-mail will be sacred from now on, no judge will ever need to get involved.
Nothing to hide, nothing to fear, and all that shit...
Now with regard accusations of rape I've heard the very same people state on television that the default position of the police should be that of believing the accuser - i.e. the presumption should be one of guilt and not innocence. In the case of Evans, it does look as if this is pretty much what happened - i.e. that he was convicted 'on the balance of probability' and not beyond a reasonable doubt.
This is jaw-droppingly terrifying, 1984 unfolding in front of our eyes, exactly what a certain type of authoritarian wishes to impose on us - and millions of you are going along with it like fucking gerbils, guided by emotional response to crimes like terrorism and those with a sexual dimension, too blind to spot the bad bastards using and manipulating those reactions for their own ends. Anyone versed in psychology will tell you that what the control freak wants you to do is react with your heart and not your head, emotionally instead of rationally. Once he or she has persuaded you to switch your brain off of your own accord, you're then ripe to be told what you need to do, what you might have to give up for some contrived greater good. Right to a fair trial? Personal Privacy? Presumption of innocence? Don't say I didn't warn you.
Ched Evans may or may not be guilty of rape - he is almost certainly an idiot for putting himself in that situation, but then so are those failing to spot the bigger, and much more dangerous picture.
An appropriate post on the day I registered to not vote - take it easy and I'll catch you soon