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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 trainwith 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.1However, following days of stinging public criticism of the club from pressure groups,2local politicians,3sponsors,4celebrities5let alone members of the public,6the 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.

This article first appeared as a blog on LawinSport.


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.9In relation to culpability, the actions or attitudes of the offender in committing the crime are also taken into account:Sexual offences Definitive Guideline, 2013.10It is only once those two steps have been undertaken that the appropriate sentence is determined.11

In Evans’ case, the category range for a rape conviction was four to seven years.12Taking into account aggravating and mitigating factors, he ultimately faced a five-year prison sentence.13Evans appealed against this decision on grounds that it had been inconsistent and, therefore, unsafe. His appeal was, however, rejected by the Court of Appeal.14Evans was later released automatically after serving half of his five-year sentence.15

It is important to emphasise that Evans has always maintained his innocence and has never expressed any contrition for the offence he was found to have committed16, including continuing his application to the Criminal Cases Review Commission, which acts as the first step to a second appeal.17


In order to assist former offenders, Parliament intended by way of theRehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974("ROA”) to re-integrate them without the heavy stigma of their former conviction. In summary, under that legislation, once a prescribed period has elapsed from the date of the offender’s conviction, the conviction is then "spent” and the offender becomes a "rehabilitated person”.18

However, for ex-offenders, such as Evans, who have been sentenced to over 30-months for sexual offences, their sentence in never spent.19In other words, if asked, he is obliged to disclose his previous conviction when seeking employment. Of course, due to his own high-profile past as a professional footballer who was convicted of rape and the recent furore around his proposed training with Sheffield United, Evans is always likely to be associated with his crime in any event.

The rehabilitation of offenders is a major issue in society. It is one thing having a statutory basis for rehabilitation. It is quite another to achieve it. ThePrisoner Reform Trust’s Surveying Prisoner Crime Reduction Survey 2013reveals that offenders, when asked which factors would be important, most stressed the importance of having a job (68%). However, in 2012-13 only 26% of prisoners entered employment on release from prison.20Around 1 in 5 employers (who honestly responded) have said that they did exclude or were likely to exclude offenders from the recruitment process.21Based on those statistics, rehabilitation for past crimes is very far from being achieved even if the "punishment” has already been served. It is a truism that a criminal conviction and certainly the related prison-sentence are major barriers to employment. In other words, they have a "discriminatory” effect.

However, some high-profile employers have made a point of employing ex-offenders as a matter of policy. In their view, by doing so they are doing society a favour rather than undermining it. For example, the key-cutters Timpson’s, despite initial criticisms, boasts that it is company policy to work with ex-offenders22and, in particular, makes the point that a real sense of loyalty can be engendered from extending a second chance to others. Virgin has also adopted a similar policy23.

Following Evans’ release, he is back into society and, just like anyone-else, is permitted to look for and carry out work. However, it seems that society – by way of some politicians, local leaders and celebrities – does not believe he should be allowed to train at a professional football club (let alone play for it). Sheffield United has been roundly criticised for even making its training offer.

Other footballers have however been re-employed, and even welcomed back, after convictions; Duncan Ferguson was jailed for three months for assaulting John McStay during a game in 1994 and Tony Adams was jailed for four months for drink-driving. In other sports, American footballer Plaxico Burress was sentenced to two years24on a firearm offence. He re-signed with the Steelers after his release. In 2007, the Atlanta Falcon’s quarterback Michael Vick was sentenced to 23 months in jail for his involvement in dog fighting operations25. He too returned to the sport. Mike Tyson, the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world during the 1980’s was convicted of raping an 18 year old beauty queen in an Indianapolis hotel. He later made a comeback on release from prison and has stared in several Hollywood movies.26


The above rather begs the following questions; whether there is something fundamentally different about being a convicted rapist which means Evans should be treated less favourably than, say, a person who committed a different, albeit very serious criminal offence? Should a high-profile football club, with responsibilities to its cross-gender supporters and to the local community, treat serious offenders differently than other employers? Do the responsibilities of professional footballers mean that once a particular boundary is crossed, there is no coming back?

Based on Evans’ case, it seems that society and now Sheffield United believe the answer to at least some, if not all of those questions, to be "yes”.



1.Sufc.co.uk, (2014).Sheffield United Football Club acknowledges the public discussion on the potential return of its former player, Mr Ched Evans, to professional football. [online] Available at:http://www.sufc.co.uk/news/article/20141111-statement-2078346.aspx[Accessed 24 Nov. 2014].

2.Hatchet, J. (2014).Kevin McCabe - Chairman Of Sheffield Utd Football Club: Refuse to reinstate Ched Evans as a player at Sheffield United.. [online] Change.org. Available at:https://www.change.org/p/kevin-mccabe-chairman-of-sheffield-utd-football-club-refuse-to-reinstate-ched-evans-as-a-player-at-sheffield-united[Accessed 24 Nov. 2014].

3.Riach, J. (2014).Pressure grows on Sheffield United over Ched Evans’ potential return. [online] the Guardian. Available at:http://www.theguardian.com/football/2014/nov/12/ched-evans-sheffield-united-pressure-grows[Accessed 24 Nov. 2014].

4.http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2831886/Sheffield-United-sponsors-threaten-boycott-convicted-rapist-Ched-Evans-signs.html[Accessed 24 Nov. 2014].

5.Johnston, C. (2014).Jessica Ennis-Hill wants name removed from stand if Ched Evans given contract. [online] the Guardian. Available at:http://www.theguardian.com/sport/2014/nov/13/jessica-ennis-hill-name-stand-ched-evans-contract-sheffield-united[Accessed 24 Nov. 2014].

6.Gibson, O. and Johnston, C. (2014).Ched Evans: Sheffield United withdraw offer of training. [online] The Guardian. Available at:http://www.theguardian.com/football/2014/nov/20/ched-evans-training-offer-withdrawn-sheffield-united[Accessed 23 Nov. 2014].

7.Sufc.co.uk, (2014).After ongoing and extensive deliberation, Sheffield United Football Club has decided to retract the opportunity for its former player, Ched Evans, to use the Club's facilities. [online] Available at:http://www.sufc.co.uk/news/article/sheffield-united-ched-evans-2094632.aspx[Accessed 24 Nov. 2014].

8.Smith, J. and Hogan, B. (2009).Smith & Hogan criminal law. 10th ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, p.16.

9.Sexual Offences Definitive Guideline:Rape and assault offences(2013). [PDF] London: The Sentencing Council, p.10. Available at:http://sentencingcouncil.judiciary.gov.uk/docs/Final_Sexual_Offences_Definitive_Guideline_content_(web).pdf[Accessed 23 Nov. 2014].

10. Ibid. p.11.

11. Ibid. pp.10 & 11.

12. Ibid. p. 11.

13. R. v. Chedwyn Evans[2012] EWCA Crim 2559 at paragraph 2

14. R. v. Chedwyn Evans[2012] EWCA Crim 2559 at paragraph 19

15. See summary section. Cps.gov.uk, (2014).Sentencing and Dangerous Offenders: Legal Guidance: The Crown Prosecution Service. [online] Available at:http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/s_to_u/sentencing_and_dangerous_offenders/[Accessed 23 Nov. 2014].

16. Chedevans.com, (2014).Ched Evans Was Wrongly Convicted of Rape on 20th April 2012 | Ched Evans Official Website. [online] Available at:http://www.chedevans.com[Accessed 23 Nov. 2014].

17. Justice.gov.uk, (2014).About the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC). [online] Available at:https://www.justice.gov.uk/about/criminal-cases-review-commission[Accessed 24 Nov. 2014].

18. Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974section 1.

19. Guidance on the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. (2014). 1st ed. [pdf] London: Gov.UK, section 2: Rehabilitation Periods. Available at:https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/299916/rehabilitation-of-offenders-guidance.pdf[Accessed 23 Nov. 2014].

20. National Offender Management Service Annual Report 2012/13, Ministry of Justice (2013).

21. Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (2010) Disadvantaged Groups in the Labour Market.

22. Timpson, J. (2014).John Timpson: We are making a difference to the lives of ex-offenders . Timpson Blog[online] Timpson.co.uk. Available at:http://www.timpson.co.uk/blog/article/79/john-timpson-we-are-making-a-difference-to-the-lives-of-ex-offenders-[Accessed 23 Nov. 2014].

23. Bibliography: Branson, R. (2013). Employ more ex-offenders - Virgin.com. [Blog].

24. ESPN.com, (2009).Burress sentenced, begins two-year prison term. [online] Available at:http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/news/story?id=4493887[Accessed 27 Nov. 2014].

25. Martin, K. (2014).Michael Vick relishes second chance at starting against Bills - Newsday. [online] Newsday. Available at:http://www.newsday.com/sports/football/jets/michael-vick-relishes-second-chance-at-starting-against-bills-1.9644660[Accessed 23 Nov. 2014].

26. Daily Mail, (2013).Mike Tyson opens up about bankruptcy, sex in jail and AIDS. [online] Mail Online. Available at:http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2493510/Mike-Tyson-opens-bankruptcy-sex-got-jail-told-ex-wife-AIDS.html[Accessed 23 Nov. 2014].



Posted: 01.12.2014 at 12:30
Tags:  Comments  Sports Law
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