Footballers these days often leap in celebration on top of a teammate who has just scored, do they not? So when British soccer pro Ched Evans leaped into a hotel bedroom frolic with his fellow ball belter and best mate Clayton McDonald – oh, and also a woman the latter had chatted up in a kebab shop after a night out clubbing – it might have seemed to those boisterous boys just like another high-spirited “day at the office”.
Hey, hey, all aboard for a fun threesome! What could possibly go wrong? Yes, the young lady was a bit the worse for wear after a few double vodkas, but not so bladdered she was unable to give legally valid consent to sex. We can reliably deduce this was a jury’s view because McDonald admitted having sex with her (as did Evans) and the jurors acquitted him of rape. So they must have believed she was in a fit state to give consent and did so.
[TOC adds later, on 1 November: What could possibly go wrong? Well, my logically watertight deduction for one thing! See Endnote.]
But those same jurors convicted Evans. Why? Was it that the woman fancied Clayton but not Ched? Or did she think both were gorgeous hunks but not at the same time, thank you very much? Either explanation might have been perfectly sustainable in the witness box but for one thing: the woman claimed she couldn’t remember a thing about sex with either of the guys. A night porter at the hotel heard from the corridor what sounded like sex going on, but there was no evidence whatever that the woman had either declined to give consent to Evans or had been unable to do so. On the other hand, both of the men testified that the woman had been asked if it was OK for Ched to join in, and she had said “yeah”.
In soccer terms, that puts the fellers 2-0 ahead. The game is surely sewn up at this point for C&C United. But no! Both goals are disallowed and a diabolical penalty is awarded: a five-year prison sentence for Ched. Clayton’s loyal backing up of his best mate’s story is hardly above suspicion, of course. But the prosecution is supposed to prove its case. A jury should not convict on mere suspicion.
The only reason a rape case was brought at all was because the police decided to pursue it. The woman herself, the next morning, had simply been concerned over losing her handbag and mobile phone the night before. Things only took a more sinister turn when she said she thought her drinks might have been spiked. But by whom? She had been drinking in the night club but didn’t meet the footballers until later, by chance. No evidence of spiking was ever found. What we are left with is no more than a purely moral judgment against Evans on the basis of him arriving at the hotel room a few minutes later than McDonald (Clayton had texted Ched, saying where he was), then turning conventional sex into something more like an orgy.
Not very edifying, perhaps, but not very devastating to the “victim” either, whose worst problem was probably being a bit hung over and minus the personal belongings she had managed to lose: it turned out she had left her bag at the kebab shop. Even the prosecution never claimed she was a stranger to this sort of situation. And judging by some tweets she allegedly made after the case, she was just thrilled at the possibility of big-money compo coming her way.
In a comment here at Heretic TOC, Jed Jones got to the heart of the matter when he wrote: “It’s precisely because rape is such a heinous crime and rapists must be brought to justice that the credibility of real victims should not be undermined by those who falsely allege rape.” Mr P was on the right lines too.
Effectively, the dubious allegation in this case was all down to the police, and I’ll be putting them back in the dock very shortly.
The storm whipped up by feminist rape exaggerators over whether “convicted rapist” Evans should be allowed to resume his career in football will not detain us, except to note its spurious nature. The “victim” touts are not concerned with justice. They are just hell-bent on “sending a message” to use their own phrase, that men are evil bastards whose balls must be crushed at every opportunity.
Their hypocrisy is to be seen in the selectivity of their concern. As the law editor of Spiked noted, not even Luke McCormick, jailed in 2008 for killing two young boys while drunk behind the wheel of a car, faced the same levels of scrutiny upon his release as Evans. He was able to resume his playing career and has just been appointed captain of Plymouth Argyle FC. As for TV presenter Charlie Webster, she is a patron of Evans’ old club Sheffield United. She was quick to jump on the fashionable bandwagon against him, saying she would quit her role with the club if they re-signed the player. What she failed to mention was a tweet she had sent a month earlier. Her sister Kylie helpfully re-tweeted it: star-struck Charlie confessed she wanted to get a photo of former heavyweight boxing champion and convicted rapist Mike Tyson.
Coming, now, to my further indictment against the police, this is where we see truly serious offences – offences not investigated by the police but committed by them.
You may well have seen the settlement of a civil claim in the news a few days ago. The Metropolitan Police in London agreed to pay £425,000 to a woman who had a child by a man who was her partner for several years after meeting him as a fellow animal rights activist.
What she had not known at the time is that the man, who claimed to be a gardener named Bob Robinson, was an undercover cop, real name Bob Lambert. He had deliberately, from their first meeting, set out to make her his girlfriend in order to give his cover greater credibility. It meant having a sexual relationship with her, and of course this all made his involvement look personal and really genuine – which it certainly was for the woman, who was just 22 at the time, back in 1983, and he was her first serious boyfriend. Another thing Lambert never told her is that he was already married, with children.
It may also have been callously deliberate on his part to get her pregnant the following year in the full knowledge that he would have to abandon her and his own child and disappear entirely from their lives once his undercover mission was over. That’s how the system worked: love ’em, leave ’em – with some completely bogus excuse – and move stealthily to the next job without leaving any trace of police involvement. At least four children are known to have been fathered by police officers in this way.
For Lambert, perpetrating the pregnancy came at a time when his intelligence work was taking him beyond mere placard-waving demonstrations and disruptions to fox hunts. He was now going deeper under cover to infiltrate the radical Animal Liberation Front, which went in for sabotaging places such as animal research labs and factory farms. Having not just an activist girlfriend, but also a child from the relationship, would utterly seal the deal over his bone fides.
The latest news reports have given the woman’s name as Jacqui, but the name I first encountered (also a pseudonym, presumably) was Charlotte, in a book called Undercover: The True Story of Britain’s Secret Police, published last year and written by Rob Evans and Paul Lewis, two Guardian journalists, this paper having broken the Lambert story in January 2012, albeit without having located Charlotte or her son. It was only later that year, in a blaze of further publicity, that Charlotte saw a photo of Bob in another newspaper and discovered the real identity of her son’s father.
As Jonathan Freedland noted, also in the Guardian, for the women in all these relationships grounded in deception and betrayal the greatest pain comes afterwards:
… a sudden departure, a postcard from abroad, and then silence. Some women spent months or even years trying to work out what had gone wrong, travelling far in search of answers. Others found that their ability to trust had been shattered. If the man they had loved turned out to be an agent of the state, what else should they be suspicious of? Could they trust their colleagues, their friends? And the question that nags above all others: was it all a fake, did he not love me at all?
And all that heartache does not touch the practical problems either: Charlotte, for instance, had been in a good job before her pregnancy – possibly an air stewardess, as the book hints. Her abandonment left her as a single mother with a young child to look after, coping on meagre state benefits.
Here’s a question. If it’s rape to have sex with a woman when she is too drunk to consent, is it also rape when a man has sex based on deception? It appears to depend on the nature of the deception. If a guy gets a woman into bed after falsely claiming to be a millionaire, that’s just the deceived partner’s bad luck. The rule is pretty much “Let the buyer beware” – don’t buy any old yarn; it’s your job to check it out. It’s easy to see why this rule is necessary. Just think of the victim-fest there would be without it:
“He said he was only 39 but he was actually 40. I wouldn’t have let an old fart like that shag me!”
“He was wearing a wig. If I’d known he was bald as a toddler’s todger I’d have posted him back to the dating agency without even unwrapping him.”
You get the picture. Even when things get serious, though, consent is not necessarily invalidated in law. If you have sex knowing you have HIV and don’t tell your partner you might end up paying massive damages in a civil case for passing on the infection; but it still won’t be a criminal case of rape. The partner’s consent would only be invalidated if you had actively used deception by denying you had HIV.
As for whether the undercover police were guilty of rape, they may not have been under the law as interpreted at the time, which is perhaps why none of them are being prosecuted. An appeal court judgment in the McNally case last year put the law in a new light, though, in a most unusual case of sexual deception. A woman had consented to sex and duly engaged in penetrative intercourse, only to discover later that her partner was not, as she had supposed, a man, but a woman in drag using a dildo under cover of darkness. The court upheld the view that the consent was not valid and a sexual offence had taken place.
Well, a dildo may be a bit like a truncheon as well as a penis, but this ruling wouldn’t necessarily be applicable to police work. Only a few months before this case, the judiciary still appeared to be clinging to the view that the police, like James Bond, are licensed to be “lady killers” if not to kill. In a high court hearing that addressed the rules for the sexual conduct of undercover officers, Mr Justice Tugendhat directly referenced the free rein enjoyed by Bond as a secret agent.
The judge said he believed that when MPs wrote the current rules which permit undercover police to form “personal or other” relationships (in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, 2000), they would all have known about Bond’s ways with women. Yes, 007 is a fictional figure, but his cultural prominence meant MPs must have been aware that real agents might think it was OK to behave in the same way unless it was explicitly ruled out. But parliament had chosen not to make any such rule. Ergo, 007’s licence to shag was completely in order!
Having heard Charlotte’s story, we may beg to differ.
Taking the two news stories together, the footballers and the undercover cops, we may feel the law is bang out of order when it comes to, well, banging.
As reader Jed Jones (which looks as if it could be a pseudonym for Ched Evans but I assume it is not 🙂 ) pointed out, my reading of the situation failed to take into account another view the jury may have taken, namely that the woman was too drunk to consent to sex with either man. On that view, their grounds for acquitting Clayton may have been that they thought he had “reasonably believed” she had given consent. And they may have concluded that Ched, by contrast, lacked any such “reasonable belief”. The question of reasonable belief was indeed put to the jury.
On reflection, it seems to me the jury may well have taken this view although it appears to be ill founded on the basis of the facts made publicly available (especially the hotel lobby video: http://chedevans.com/judge-for-yourself ), and on the law relating to consent while under the influence of drink, as summarised in R v Bree ( http://lexisweb.co.uk/cases/2007/march/r-v-bree ) .
Having said that, second guessing a jury’s verdict on the basis of public reports at a later date is always a risky and perhaps slightly hubristic business.
Sometimes, though, it is right to take that risk after looking into things as carefully as one can. When a man’s life may have been unfairly trashed is surely just such an occasion.