Thursday, 21 April 2016

The Day Ched Evans Was Still Accused Of Rape ...But men saw that as victory.

Securing a rape conviction is hard. When a woman is raped she has a myriad of thoughts and reactions. Not all victims of rape react in the same or predictable or stereotypical way. Not all of the ways raped women react are as those without experience would expect them to be, or play out like a Channel 4 Drama. Vengeance and justice are often low on the list of those thoughts. Shame, hiding and escaping are often high.

With a conviction rate for rape running at approximately 7% of rape crime and police declaring a quarter of sexual offences "no crime" with under-reporting at 26% (*1) it is unsurprising that only around 16,000 rapes out of an estimated 78,000 are reported. (*2)

Juries, and sometimes presiding judges, have notoriously been guilty of responding to the pressures of ingrained rape mythology and victim-blaming.

Women do not report rape easily. Rapists are not easily convicted.

Ched Evans was convicted of rape in 2012 and sentenced to 5 years in prison. He served 2 and a half years. After a successful appeal where he submitted "new evidence" to an appeal court, as was his right, the original conviction was quashed.

A retrial was ordered immediately by the presiding appeal court judge. She felt that this was in the interests of justice. She did not tell Mr Evans to go home, crack open a bottle of champagne, put his feet up and revel in the certainty that he was wrongly convicted. She ordered a retrial. That means he is still to be accused of rape and will be arraigned shortly. That means that a woman remains the complainant. She still has anonymity and she still does not deserve targeted abuse of the kind I have seen today. She never will.

I assume the CPS will defend the original conviction by challenging the "new evidence" and presenting at least some of the original evidence for reconsideration. The original evidence which, when presented to a jury, led to him being convicted of rape. The CPS must feel that a quashed sentence is not a fit for purpose or appropriate judgement in this case. I can understand why. The precedent set by this appeal result is dangerous and worrying for rape victims everywhere depending on what the "new evidence" is.

It is not possible for anyone to report the "new evidence" because of continuing imposition of reporting restrictions and with this in mind I will say very little.

What I do assume is that the CPS will now have the chance to properly examine and thoroughly challenge the "new evidence". I hope that the CPS will ensure that the "new evidence" is entirely free of grotesque victim-blaming. I hope the CPS will question the origin and validity of any  "new evidence" as appropriate in order to ensure a fair trial for both the accused and the complainant.

I hope that the CPS continue to fight for justice for women who are victims of sexual violence regardless of the media attention in any particular case.

I have been asked whether I believe in rehabilitation and if I will apologise to Ched Evans. Currently I see an ongoing legal process and as yet I need do nothing beyond watch what happens. I will say this......

The rehabilitation of offenders is one aim of our criminal justice system. Returning to a previous career is dependent on the risk of reoffending. The key issue is the proximity of that risk. Evans returning to a football pitch, as a convicted rapist, was a dangerous message to send to some football fans who still, to this hour,  seem uncertain about the need to obtain consent for sex with women. The worry for me was that some women might be raped as a result. I considered the risk of that unacceptable and the message from the criminal justice system on this is weak. 170,000 people made it clear that they did not want a convicted sex offender, still serving his sentence and still unrepentant on a pitch each week in front of their children.

This issue will remain contentious until the FA and PFA make it clear to their footballers that there will be no way back into the game if they commit crimes of violence against women or children. 

Today the behaviour of men on social media has been appalling. Their lack of respect for women, poor grasp of the criminal justice system and legal procedure and their prioritisation of football over the safety of women girls is further reinforcement of the reasons feminists fight for justice for other women. 

I send my love to all victims of domestic and sexual violence. Men on social media - why don't you glance up from the football on your screen and do the same?