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:
- Protect the public;
- Prevent re-offending;
- 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.
- 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)?;
- 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)?;
- 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?;
- Will the travel interfere with reporting requirements or attendance at offending behaviour programmes or interventions?;
- 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?;
- 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.
- 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.
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 …