Friday 30 January 2015

The Class War On Ched Evans

I doubt that Ched Evans and I would get on. Indeed, I doubt that we should find very much about which to converse. I know almost nothing about football itself. I actively dislike what its attendant culture has become.

But after Vicky Pryce on This Week last night, and Chris Huhne on Newsnight the night before, not to mention Huhne’s several months as a Guardian columnist, followed by a pointed dig on this evening’s EastEnders by writers as middle-class and arts-graduate as I am, I find myself feeling a certain sympathy for a man who does not deny that he had sex with a stranger in front of his own brother.

Evans is a convict. He is free only on license. He has not completed his sentence. Therefore, it might have been better if he had not found work until after that completion. That, however, would be to call for him to be dependent on State benefits.

The acts that he does not dispute are morally reprehensible enough, and the attitude of his girlfriend’s father is a most discombobulating insight into an entirely different world. But of course footballers are not role models. Who, exactly, models his off-pitch behaviour on them?

When the younger male fans of Oldham Athletic had followed those of Sheffield United in not committing anything remotely resembling either the disputed or the undisputed acts of their supposed idol, then football itself would have had to have confronted the fact that its practitioners simply were not national figures, or moral bastions, or “cultural icons”, or even persons of the slightest especial importance.

Feminists used to challenge the cultural priority of football. That priority arose entirely out of the process in the 1990s whereby the game was changed from a working-class pursuit into one in which chavs performed like monkeys for posh boys.

But now, it is scarcely, if at all, an exaggeration to say that British feminism could not survive the upholding of Evans’s appeal. Tens of thousands of people have been enticed into the utterly undemanding act of signing online petitions.

Petitioning is in itself an integral part of the democratic process, rather than any sort of “mob rule”. But these petitions have presupposed the earth-shattering importance of this person and of his doings. Imagine if that amount of energy had been diverted into something that really mattered. As, not very long ago, feminists would once have said.

There is an obvious campaign to say the word “paedophile” as often as possible in relation to this case of sex between a 19-year-old woman and a 22-year-old man. That 19-year-old woman is always called “a young girl”. Ordinarily, feminist opinion would rightly be outraged at the description of an adult woman as a “girl”.

But it is the class thing that is most striking, when one compares the calls for Evans to be denied at least prominent or well-remunerated (indeed, I am the first to say, obscenely overpaid) employment over something that had nothing to with football, with the warm welcome back that is simultaneously being extended by journalism itself to the privately schooled plagiarist and fabricator, Johann Hari.

City types whose incompetence or outright criminality has brought ruin to vast numbers of people, while sending the bill to each and every one of us, are rarely dismissed in the first place, and see their incomes continue to rise exponentially. David Laws is back attending Cabinet.

Does anyone seriously doubt that there is or has been an element of sexual violence to the Bullingdon Club? And not of the kind that the victim does not remember. At the very least, that Club exists to commit criminal damage and assault.

What if a group of young men on a council estate, the same age as Oxford undergraduates, organised themselves into such a club, complete with a uniform? What say the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Mayor of London?

Tony Blair continues to make what he and his sycophants clearly assume will be received as significant political interventions. It bears its frequent repetition that Blair is, of all things, a Middle East Peace Envoy.

None of the writers and broadcasters who cheered on the Iraq War, all of them safely upper-middle-class or above, has ever suffered the slightest adverse effect of that catastrophic misjudgement. Quite the reverse, in fact.

Until his retirement, Judge John MacMillan, who had used the n-word in order to brand black people lazy in the course of his work as an Employment Tribunal judge, and who had been found to be biased against plaintiffs, was permitted to continue to sit without even having to notify the sides in cases subsequent to his double disgrace.

Plummy commentators airily suggest that Evans become a bricklayer, or a painter and decorator, as if lower moral standards were only to be expected in such walks of life, and as if it were possible to walk straight into those trades, which in reality take years to learn.

There are no outstanding allegations against Evans. But there are against Jeffrey Epstein, who has always remained a close friend of the Queen’s son.

Rock and pop royalty are treated much as if they were, as they sometimes are, the friends of real royalty. Bill Wyman has never been charged for having repeatedly and flagrantly had sex with a 13-year-old girl, while the matter of the impeccably middle-class Jimmy Page OBE’s sometime 14-year-old girlfriend is ignored completely.

Some lightning rod for all of these and similar concerns has been necessary throughout the present century. But even if his appeal is upheld, the pity, the tragedy, the shame will be that that will have had to have been the disgusting Ched Evans.

Meanwhile, the criminal justice system itself seems to have very little confidence in Evans’s conviction, clearly regarding it as a noisy embarrassment that it wishes would go away. Look at the evidence.

Evans was released on license after having served half his time. That was despite the fact that his supporters maintained a website that did not merely protest his innocence, but offered a £10,000 reward for evidence against his accuser. Immediately upon his release, not only did the Criminal Cases Review Commission fast-track his case, but it publicly announced that it had done so.

Of the fully 10 people who have ever been prosecuted for naming the victim, nine were not even fined, but were merely ordered to pay £624 plus costs, while the tenth’s combination of that, a nominal fine, and a victim surcharge of a whopping £15, came to a grand total of not much more than £1600.

At the time of writing, the action against the website for contempt of court has been due “within weeks” in the way that Iran has been “two years away from a nuclear bomb” for well over 10 times that long.

That football clubs have considered signing Evans can only mean that the Probation Service regards him as posing as near as it is permitted to say to no risk whatever. The powers that be pay more attention than that to some people who have been acquitted, or never charged, or even never arrested.

Or are we seriously expected to believe that a Probation Officer might ever have been deputed to follow Evans and his teammates around the country as a kind of valet, a footballers’ footman, not so much Falstaff’s page as Prince Hal’s, undoubtedly fetching the drinks, quite conceivably cleaning the boots, and not unimaginably arranging the “birds”? There you are, then.

Evans maintains his innocence and is appealing, as is anyone’s right. Whichever way that goes, with any luck his case will almost certainly place others like it, with no forensic evidence but with non-consent presupposed under Harman’s Law, in a category similar to that of foxhunting: rarely brought before the courts, even then mostly privately by a charity that happened to be as rich as Croesus (although what would fulfil the role of the RSPCA here?), hardly ever resulting in a conviction, and subject to sentences all the way down to absolute discharge.

The Parole Board, the Criminal Cases Review Commission and the Probation Service manifestly want that to happen. As is the view of the Police and the Crown Prosecution Service where hunting is concerned, they have better things to do than chase after people who, leaving aside whether or not their actions were unpleasant or just plain weird, had had the misfortune to be criminalised as politically distasteful by the weirdo Blair Government that feels far longer ago than it was.

In view of Oldham Athletic’s previous contract with Lee Hughes, Evans is now demonstrably less employable than a convicted killer. How did that happen?

Evans was charged on the basis of what we should all identify as entrapment techniques if they were to be employed in many another country. He was convicted on no evidence except that his accuser could not remember anything, including the sex that she only knew that she had had because Evans and McDonald had said so.

He was thus convicted against the only other testimony, that of a co-defendant who was acquitted and who remembered everything; we now have Sharia Law in reverse, with the testimony of one (drunken) woman overriding that of two (relatively sober) men. He was refused leave to appeal.

He was convicted of a singularly stigmatised offence with which only a male can be charged, and the law of which was drastically altered in the High Harman Era significantly to the detriment of the presumption of innocence.

Further changes have recently been proposed to the effect that those alleging rape would be placed at a very considerable advantage in the cross-examination process, and yesterday that the Crown Prosecution Service should legislate unilaterally in order to make possible the imprisonment of any man for rape on nothing more than the say-so of one anonymous woman.

Even EastEnders is being used to present this as somehow already the law, under which Clayton McDonald would also have been found guilty.

Although the ever-compliant Parliament of Blair’s pomp must bear a great deal of responsibility for characteristically waving through Harman’s Law, locking up half the young male population would not bother those who were behind it, still less those who are behind the latest schemes, which latter are in any case extraparliamentary, a kind of coup.

Especially if it were that half of the young male population which came from such places as Sheffield, Oldham and Rhyl, then that was what they wanted. That is still what they want.

This clash has been coming for years. Now, it is here.


  1. Clayton McDonald is the point here. The DPP says this is already the law, double jeopardy is gone, they are out to retry McDonald and send him down.