*Update – 22nd March *
We were hoping to able to give a summary, and maybe some commentary, of the first day of the appeal, but we understand that there have been reporting restrictions imposed that prevent reporting until the appeal has concluded.
On 22nd March 2016 the Court of Appeal will hear the appeal of Ched Evans, the Sheffield United and Wales footballer who was convicted of rape on 20th April 2012 and sentenced to 5 years in prison.
By way of background, Mr Evans tried to appeal his conviction (there is a fact sheet here as to how appeals are dealt with). The Single Judge refused permission but, as was his right, Mr Evans renewed his application before the Full Court, who also refused it.
An indication of how high profile the case is can be seen by the fact that the judgment of the Full Court was published – this is very rare.
That would normally be the end of things, but Mr Evans made an application to the Criminal Cases Review Commission (as was, again, his right).
What will happen?
We are told that the appeal is listed to last for two days. This is very long – most appeals last a couple of hours at most. A day long appeal is very unusual, more than that is exceptional.
It seems that Mr Evans (and possibly the prosecution) will be calling a variety of witnesses to give ‘fresh evidence’. Details are sparse, but if some or all of these are called then this may explain the length of time it is listed.
What are the grounds of appeal?
That we don’t know, as neither the Grounds of the Application to the CCRC, nor the CCRC Referral itself, has been published.
Despite having a website to proclaim his innocence, Mr Evans hasn’t published more details (anonymised of course) of the grounds of the application.
But from the news report above, it seems that the grounds will be that :
- the police did not follow correct procedures
- the judge misdirected jurors
- vital CCTV footage was missing
- further information about the complainant, including “significant inconsistencies” about her lifestyle
What are the chances of success?
Difficult to say at this stage. It is very hard to win an appeal against conviction, and so the odds are stacked against him. But then again, the CCRC did refer the case, which does mean that there is some merit in it.
As an overview :
In relation to (1), it is reported “that when he and soccer pal Clayton McDonald were arrested they were driven away in the same police car, were not read their rights and had a discussion which compromised their defence“. It is hard to see what this could be, but no doubt we will find out.
(2) is the most common grounds of appeal, and the one that is most likely to succeed generally.
However, the case was considered in 2012 by three very senior Judges, including the (then) Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge. Not only that, but Mr Evans was represented by a QC and a junior.
So although it is possible there was a misdirection that was missed then, it does seem a bit unlikely.
As any advocate can tell you, (3) is a very hard argument to win. The law is pretty well set out in R v Feltham Magistrates’ Court, ex part Ebrahim  EWHC (Admin) 130. It is hard to imagine what the CCTV that was missing was, but again we will have to wait and see.
Lastly, with (4), it will depend on what it is. It’s important to note that information about the complainant’s lifestyle is inadmissible, not least because it is irrelevant.
But it may be that there is information affecting her credibility, which would be relevant of course.
At this stage, again, there’s not much that we can say without knowing more details of what the proposed evidence is.
What happens if he wins?
That will be up to the CPS and the Court. In the sense that the CPS can ask the Court of Appeal to order a re-trial, which they may do.
Although he has served his sentence (effectively, although of course he’s technically on licence), given the high profile nature of the case, I would imagine that a re-trial would be ordered.
Either way, it is important to remember that the complainant has life long anonymity, and it is a criminal offence to publish her name.
What if he loses, can he be sent back to prison?
No. He has served his prison sentence (see above) and although there are cases where a Court can order someone to spend longer in prison if they pursue a hopeless case, this is not one of them. The fact that the CCRC have referred the case protects him from that.
He will probably be ordered to pay some of the costs incurred by the prosecution in defending the appeal however.
In theory, he can apply again to the CCRC, and in certain cases they have sent a case back to the Court of Appeal more than once (see that of Tony Stock as an extreme example), but that is incredibly rare.
*Comments have been disabled pending the outcome of the appeal*