A worrying future for sex abuse cases
Updated: Sep 15, 2020
The retrial of professional footballer, Ched Evans, has come to an end, declaring him as not guilty. Whilst he can now move on, the life of the complainant will never get back to normal due to how she has been wrongfully exposed in court.
Back in 2011 Ched Evans was given five years and served two and a half for the rape of a 19-year-old woman in a hotel room. Since then, with help from a well-funded legal team and PR campaign, the footballer gained a retrial and is now a free man. Evans was said to be “overwhelmed with relief” in a statement read out as he left court last month.
Life is looking up now for the 27-year-old. Chesterfield, his current club, is waiting for his return as he’s nursing an injury. His fiancée, Natasha Massey, stood by him through the trial.
Although Evans appears to be heading for brighter days again, the fact the court heard of the sexual preferences and habits of the complainant has caused uproar with women’s support groups and campaigners. It is now a worry that this move will prevent victims from coming forward in the future.
Section 41 of the Youth and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 put restrictions on the extent of evidence that could be put forward in court about an alleged victim’s sexual behaviour. In this case the lawyers have worked around that. Lisa Longstaff, of the group Women Against Rape claims that: “they’ve driven a coach and horses through the supposed protection.”
There is a thin but dangerous line between giving someone a fair trial and completely exposing the complainant. This case is unique due to the public interest around Evans, but with the help he has received to be found not guilty, the exposure of the complainant seems to have gone too far and now her life is ruined.
The case has been followed with controversy from the very beginning, with some arguments surfacing around whether a sports star can return to the game having served their time.
The outcome of this retrial should have caused the story to slowly fade, but now with the way it has been handled in court, it is hard to see how this won’t affect future cases of rape and other sexual assaults. It is bad enough that the victim has been named on social media, but with her sexual history being announced in court, I can’t see how anyone can move on from that.
The treatment of the complainant in such a public case is worrying for the future of abused women, because it could make it harder for prosecutors to get justice in future sexual abuse cases.