Rod Liddle

The utterly ludicrous and petty campaign against Ched Evans

He has served the required amount of his sentence, and he should be allowed to do the job he chose and is qualified for

The utterly ludicrous and petty campaign against Ched Evans
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A new name to help us welcome in the new year: Jean Hatchet. A name which is almost certainly too good to be true for a perpetually infuriated radical feminist — much as, say, Roz Termagant or Betty Hitler would be. It is a pseudonym, apparently. Ms Hatchet — I assume that is the title she would prefer, although Mx is catching on quite quickly — is the woman behind the petitions to prevent the footballer and convicted rapist Ched Evans from earning a living from his trade.

The first petition was got up when Evans began training with his former club, Sheffield United — who quickly washed their hands of him as a consequence of the publicity. There was a sort of furore. The actual number of people who felt so angry that Evans should be allowed to work for a living at his chosen profession were very small indeed — Hatchet’s latest petition contains just 30,000 signatures, a mere microdot in today’s world of click-democracy. But the issue had become politicised and the subtext now read: if you are in favour of Ched Evans playing professional football again, then you are in favour of rape. To argue that he has served the required amount of his sentence is also to be in favour of rape, and in favour of rapists and in favour of sexual violence per se. And so this laughable, stupid and fatuous premise has terrified the politicians, who have now, of course, become involved. None of them dare suggest that one of the purposes of prison is to rehabilitate and that the best possible outcome for a former prisoner is that he should go straight into a job (rather than on to benefits).

One of the ironies is that the people who have signed these various petitions are more usually lenient on the issue of criminal justice — unless it is a crime to which they particularly object. Burglary, armed robbery, manslaughter, drug dealing etc. — they’re OK. Crimes against women and any racist stuff — nope, no rehabilitation, you’re scum and that’s that. Oh, and homophobia.

Scum he may well be. Don’t know the bloke. Once Sheffield United had ditched him, most other league clubs ran a mile. Hartlepool, rooted eight points adrift at the very bottom of the bottom division, showed a vague interest and then swiftly bailed. Then Oldham Athletic fancied taking him on — and they have form when it comes to the rehabilitation of offenders. Oldham employed another striker, Lee Hughes, when he had been released from prison for killing someone as a consequence of dangerous driving — there was, of course, no petition designed to prevent them. Nor have there been petitions against the multitude of other ex-offenders plying their trade in the football league. Just Ched Evans. As the Spectator columnist Melissa Kite put it, this is mob rule.

The arguments against Evans playing football again are so vacuous as to be beyond parody; it is a froth of fashionable PC outrage, and odious in its implications. First, it is alleged that in playing football, rather than being a plumber or a taxidermist, Evans is in a position of ‘influence’. Really? Playing football for a third-rate team in front of 5,000 supporters? The objectors insist that he can carry on playing football — just not for a team anyone has heard of, which is sort of mad. They also say he can get a job — but not the one he wants to do and is qualified to do. Is it possible to be more utterly ludicrous and petty? Next, they insist that he did not serve his full sentence and is therefore on licence, rather than properly at liberty. Well yes, but that applies to almost everyone released from prison. Are we to say that none of them should work? Or work only where Jean Hatchet and a bunch of moronic columnists decide is suitable? Where do you think he should clock in, Jean and friends? Why not drop him a line and explain what work you think is suitable for someone who has recently come out of prison. And then do the same thing to the other few hundred thousand people in a similar situation: you decide where they can work and how much they can earn.

Then there is the allegation that he has shown no remorse; he has not said sorry to his victim. I am not aware of this stipulation being raised in any other case. The reason he has not apologised is that he does not think that he is guilty, and his lawyers have lodged an appeal with the Criminal Cases Review Commission, so he would be ill advised to say sorry. There are grave doubts about his conviction — but even if there were not, the point and the principle remain. He has served his sentence for a serious crime. In a civilised country you would expect people to be delighted that he was now about to be offered full-time, remunerative work.

One air-headed columnist suggested that even though he had served his sentence, the woman he raped would have to live with his crime her entire life and, therefore, so should he. Ergo, he should not be allowed to play professional football. But what of the victims of muggers, killers, robbers, burglars? Do they not continue to suffer? Should we stop all criminals working on account of the legacy of misery and trauma they have left behind? I can see a case for saying ‘Yes we should!’ I don’t agree with it, but I can see the case.

But I can’t see the case for saying: no, only Ched Evans. Just him. The truth is that his case is the perfect example of the moronic inferno, the howl round of witlessness and politically motivated confected outrage.