Can Ched Evans play football in Malta?

Can Ched Evans play football in Malta?

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Introduction

Another day, another petition about Ched Evans. If you don’t know who Ched Evans is, then there is some background here. In short, he is a rapist and former footballer who has recently been released from prison, which has raised the difficult question of what the attitude of a football club should be in signing him to play for him. On 3rd January 2015 it was announced that Mr Evans has been offered a contract to play in Malta for the rest of the season.

The petition is calling on the MoJ to “Enforce the strict rules on allowing registered sex offenders to travel abroad by insisting Ched Evans serve his sentence in the UK as any other sex offender would.” It states that “If Ched Evans is allowed to travel either long term or regularly in the short term it flouts the “robust” system on sex offenders the Conservative Party promised

It isn’t entirely accurate in the way that it’s presented, but you can see the gist of what they are saying. What’s the law about this though?

 

Can he be stopped?

The position under the Sex Offenders Register is governed by The Sexual Offences Act 2003 (Notification Requirements) (England and Wales) Regulations 2012. In essence, there is a requirement to notify the police of any intention to travel abroad.

If they are concerned, the police can apply under s114 Sexual Offences Act 2003 for a ‘Foreign Travel Order‘. This requires that Mr Evans has behaved in such a way since his conviction ‘as to give reasonable cause to believe that it is necessary for such an order to be made‘. In reality, it is clear that this is not the case here.

There is no SOPO in place, as one was not deemed necessary.

So that leaves his licence conditions. There is a standard condition not to travel outside the UK. There is a lot of detail in 11/2014 Licence Conditions, Polygraph Testing and temporary travel abroad. A few extracts :

Requests for temporary travel abroad for the purposes of family, business, recreation or holiday must be considered on their individual merits, must not interfere with the sentence plan or increase any risk of re-offending or risk of serious harm, and should contribute positively to the rehabilitation and resettlement of the offender. It is crucial that each case is considered carefully and the aims of the licence are borne in mind, namely to:

  1. Protect the public;
  2. Prevent re-offending;
  3. Re-integrate the offender into the community.

para 3.12 The following criteria must be taken into account in considering requests for temporary travel abroad.

  1. Will the benefits to the offender of travelling abroad be realised if the travel is deferred until after the end of the licence period (for determinate sentence offenders) or suspension of the supervision element of the licence (for indeterminate sentence offenders)?;
  2. Are travel or activities carried out abroad connected or potentially connected to the offender’s index offence (e.g. importation of drugs; fraud involving companies set up outside of the United Kingdom; human trafficking)?;
  3. Will the travel interfere with the sentence plan or increase any risk of re-offending or risk of serious harm, including risk of serious harm to prior victims?; 
  4. Will the travel interfere with reporting requirements or attendance at offending behaviour programmes or interventions?;
  5. Have there been any concerns regarding a lack of compliance or any escalation in risk of reoffending or risk of serious harm in the past 12 months?;
  6. Is the Senior Manager satisfied that the offender can be trusted to return and resume the supervisory period?If the answers to questions 1 to 5 are “no” and questions 6 is “yes”, then it can be considered that an offender has met the requirements to qualify for temporary travel overseas, i.e. the case can be considered sufficiently “exceptional” in order to allow an offender to temporarily travel abroad. Any doubt whatsoever must give rise to a refusal and, if necessary, liaison with OMPPG for further advice. Contact details are on the front cover of this instruction.

So, looking at this, the difficulty for Mr Evans will be para 4.

However, the rules if the travel is for work are slightly different :

3.16 If the offender is applying to temporarily travel abroad for business purposes, i.e. in order to seek or undertake employment, the presumption is that the employment has already been reviewed by the supervising officer and found to be suitable. Criterion 1 of the general criteria can pose a potential problem for supervising officers to judge with business-related temporary travel abroad as they are often not in a position to be able to determine accurately whether this type of travel can wait until after a licence period has been completed. Therefore for business related travel abroad, the following criterion applies, replacing criterion 1.

  1. Does the employer support the offender’s request to travel abroad, and is the employer fully aware of the restrictions placed on the offender by the licence period?

3.17 Any request to travel abroad for business requires that disclosure of the offender’s offending history has already occurred to that employer, and a written letter from that employer should be supplied to the supervising officer supporting the offender’s request. This should be seen as fulfilling the requirement in the criteria 1; however, the supervising officer may need to further discuss with the offender and employer the arrangements for reporting during this period and should seek to come to a compromise over the time spent overseas and any adjustments to the reporting schedule.

3.18 These requirements will be more difficult to fulfil for self-employed or freelance offenders, due to the need for independent evidence of the need to travel. Therefore criterion 7 will not apply in those cases, and it will be up to the offender to supply sufficient evidence to meet criterion 1.

This would seem to be a bit more promising. Mr Evans can at least afford to be based in the UK and comply with the various programs that are part of his licence conditions.

It is right to say that travel abroad should only be allowed in an exceptional case. But, as noted above, ‘exceptional’ has a specific meaning, in that anyone who satisfies the above criteria will be an exceptional case. On the face of it, Mr Evans probably does fit these requirements.

There is no appeal mechanism, but a refusal could be Judicially Reviewed. This would raise some interesting questions under Art 8 and EU freedom of movement rights.

The MoJ appear to have issued a statement saying ” Probation officers must give permission for sex offenders on licence to take up new jobs and this includes ensuring they hold regular face to face meetings – this effectively rules out working abroad“. We haven’t been able to find the statement on the MoJ or other government website, and are a bit cautious about relying on it as it is very unusual for the MoJ to give a statement about an individual case, and on a Saturday afternoon to boot. We will come back to look at this if the statement can be verified.

 

Comment

So, where does that leave Mr Evans? Difficult to say.

I’m not a huge fan of “the “robust” system on sex offenders the Conservative Party promised” as it tends to be hot air that achieves nothing. And without wishing to be too political, I’ve not been a fan of very much of what has come out from the Conservative party on legal matters.

I won’t be signing this petition. Partly because I’m fed up of petitions (particularly change.org ones), partly because petitions seeking to make the state act in a punitive manner against an individual are a bit too close to a Bill of Attainder for my liking, but mainly because I don’t see that the “strict rules on allowing registered sex offenders to travel abroad”, at least in the EU, is the best way of protecting potential victims.

I do agree that he should be treated ‘as any other sex offender would‘. This doesn’t mean that he should be banned from travelling however.

If he was a ‘normal’ person, I imagine that given his lack of previous, compliance to date, and the fact that being in work is generally the best way of stopping offending, Probation would be only to happy for him to work in Malta rather than being unemployed in the UK.

Mr Evans is not a normal offender however, and it it difficult to know how this one will pan out. The campaigns to stop him from playing football in the UK have been very successful, and there is no reason to think that that this will not continue. For that reason, if I were Mr Evans, I wouldn’t be dusting off my passport just yet …

 

 

 

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Dan is a barrister at 2 Dr. Johnson’s Buildings practising in crime.

12 COMMENTS

  1. I would rather see him working than not but I can think of some who will disagree!

    What happens to an offender on license who wants to go to a close relation’s funeral abroad?

    • There are provisions for emergency approval in those circumstances. It would be a heartless and overly bureaucratic machine with no compassion to refuse someone in those circumstances. But it is the MoJ …

  2. Interesting. Given that this man has maintained his innocence, I am not sure that participation in offending groups would necessarily be attached to his licence conditions. One would surely be setting him up to fail and, indeed, upset others in group and I do not see any Probaation Officer doing this.

    I agree with you regarding his public profile. A low risk offender would be permitted to work abroad after negotiation with a foreign jurisdiction. This man would never be permitted to do so as the Dervice would attract hostile media reporting.

    I have hated the campaign against him and how few journalists have actually considered his rights to work given that the custodial element of his sentence is complete.

  3. Ignoring all the inevitable hysteria in the press: the question should be would any other person prosecuted for a similar crime and now on License be permitted to take up employment of their trade in another country?

    The fact he is a footballer and not a brick layer or IT consultant should not enter into any decision.

    Eloise

  4. I’m entirely with Andrew on this, and if the only way for him to get into work is to go to Malta, so be it. It is certainly better than stopping him ever working again, whether as a footballer or hotel porter. There are even arrangements in place to enable Probation Services in other EU Member States to take over responsibility for supervision and reporting in certain cases. There is no reason at all, to my eyes, why he shouldn’t be put on one-to-one supervision with a sex offender manager in Malta, who could just possibly achieve more in terms of rehabilitation than if he were to remain here.

  5. I’m entirely with Andrew on this, and if the only way for him to get into work is to go to Malta, so be it. It is certainly better than stopping him ever working again, whether as a footballer or hotel porter. There are even arrangements in place to enable Probation Services in other EU Member States to take over responsibility for supervision and reporting in certain cases. There is no reason at all, to my eyes, why he shouldn’t be put on one-to-one supervision with a sex offender manager in Malta, who fcould just possibly achieve more in terms of rehabilitation than if he were to remain here.

  6. I think that Ched should be allowed to work abroad after all he will be going to an english speaking EU state and I cannot believe that “reciprocal arrangements” can’t be put in place. Preventiing him working is effectively finishing his career and that’s counterproductive to “rehabIlitation”

  7. The point of the petitions which I note some people are sick of is that a convicted rapist should not be placed in an influential position where he is revered as a role model for the impressionable children, young men and adult men who revere footballers and hero worship them. No-one is saying he can’t work he can find another job, another career. I have zero sympathy for this arrogant, entitled man who raped a 19 year old girls and who had people attempting to film it also without her knowledge or consent. Ched you’re a class act (that’s sarcasm). Furthermore the young women he raped is regularly vilified and has been forced to move numerous times, what about her human rights, because his supporters insist on revealing her identity and much like Mike Tyson while bleating about how innocent he is he has never publicly told them to leave her alone. That’s why people like him are dangerous. It also shows that even when there is a guilty verdict rape victims are not believed.

    • I’m sick of the petitions as they seem fairly pointless. At least with the Parliamentary one, if you get 100,000 then you can force a debate in Parliament. And whilst I’m not fussed about the harm to Mr Evans here, I am uncomfortable with petitions arguing that the coercive power of the state should be brought down on an individual – that seems to me to be the antithesis of justice.

      I don’t think many have any sympathy for Mr Evans. As you say, he is a convicted rapist and has brought this on himself. I find the question of whether he should be allowed to be a footballer a difficult one, and one where I have changed my mind on several times in the last six months.

      The treatment of the victim has been appalling and I can’t understand why Mr Evans hasn’t called ‘his’ people out on this.

      In part I think I take football less seriously than most. He’s not a role model, he’s a person who used to kick a ball around and got (over)paid a huge amount for. That’s capitalism, but at the end of the day, it’s only football and the sooner we see it as entertainment and move away from the idea of footballers as being role models the better.

      What I want for him is to be treated as every other sex offender is.

      • At the end of the day he was a League One footballer. That’s 3rd division in plain language. Hardly the glamorous dazzling Chelsea FC lifestyle. We’re not talking multi millionaires here (although figures still much higher than “average” workers). The career lifespan is much shorter. If he doesn’t get back to earn his living now, time will run out pretty soon, and with that the potential earnings.
        The irony of it is that the majority of the terminally offended and outraged PC brigade wouldn’t even know about Ched Evans and League One, if it wasn’t for his conviction. Someone has decided he’s a role model. He’s not. He’s a lower league footballer, like hundreds of other semi-unknown guys that run and kick a ball on a daily basis to make a living.

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