The case of Ched Evans has been in the news seemingly non-stop recently. It throws up many complicated and serious issues that has engendered a lot of public debate. See here for our coverage of his first appeal being refused and a couple of thoughts as to whether he should play for Sheffield United.
One issue that has caused confusion is whether he received any special treatment either in the sentence he got, or when he got released. The answer is ‘no’ – he was treated like any other member of the public.
Another point is that Mr Evans has not exactly shown much remorse. He is still disputing his conviction and a dossier has been assembled and passed to the CCRC, but what does that mean?
What is the CCRC?
We have a full fact sheet on what it is, why it exists, and how it works. Briefly, it is the body that anyone who has been convicted and had their appeal refused (as Mr Evans has), but still feels that they have been wrongly convicted can go for help.
The CCRC will investigate Mr Evans case and decided in due course whether to refer his case to the Court of Appeal. If they do, this does not mean that his conviction will be quashed, but it does give him another go at it in the Court of Appeal.
They will be looking at the new material that people working on Mr Evans behalf have collected and see whether that raises a ‘real possibility’ that the Court of Appeal will find the conviction to be unsafe.
Why is he getting fast-tracked though?
This is an issue that has caused a lot of angst in the media, for obvious reasons. Should someone’s celebrity mean that they get their case looked at faster? Obviously, the answer to that is no, but is he getting special treatment here?
The CCRC have a policy as to how they prioritise cases. Firstly they screen the case to see if there is any potential merit in it. Once that is satisfied, then there are three level of priorities. If the factor below is ‘discretionary’, then the CCRC may look at whether there has been undue delay by the applicant which may mean that the case is ‘downgraded’ in priority :
If any of the following apply :
(i) The case has been referred by the Court of Appeal for investigation by the CCRC
(ii) The applicant has applied for review of sentence only and has less than two years to serve (automatic)
(iii) There are exceptional circumstances that justify a prioritised review (discretionary) – taking account of the following factors:
- The old age and/or ill health of the applicant where there is concern that the applicant may die before the case is dealt with
- Evidence that the applicant’s serious ill health (or that of any close family member of the applicant) is directly and significantly aggravated by the delay
- The youth of the applicant where, having regard to the nature of the offence, the sentence imposed and the applicant’s personal circumstances, the conviction has an exceptionally adverse impact on their welfare and/or educational and career prospects. In the same way, the young age of the applicant at the date of conviction will also be a consideration
- The risk of being unable to secure or obtain relevant evidence, or of relevant evidence deteriorating, for whatever reason
- Operational effectiveness
- The impact of delay on the criminal justice system.
If either of the following apply:
(i) the applicant is in custody, or
(ii) he is out but “but individual factors demonstrate that the conviction has an exceptionally adverse impact on the convicted person or on another individual or individuals”
All other cases.
Where is Ched Evans on this scale?
On the face of it, now that he has been released, he would be Level 3. However, given that this may impact on his employment, it is legitimate to say that this puts it into Level 2. For that reason, Mr Evans is not getting special treatment, the CCRC are applying their policy to him.
One of the real ironies here, perhaps, is that the outcry over whether or not he should play football on his release has bumped his case up from Level 3 to Level 2, which means it will be dealt with quicker.
However, it is not right to say that what the CCRC are doing is fast-tracking his case, he is being treated now, as he always has been, like any other member of the public.