Rape should be an easy crime to prove or disprove. If you think that is indeed the case, think again.
The police mugshot of Ched Evans
Rape is always a controversial subject, and at times polemicising against it borders on the hysterical. Nevertheless, it is important that it be discussed rationally, especially when the evidence is not clear cut or indeed when it is totally fabricated. At this current moment in time there are two cases on both sides of the Atlantic - two of them historic, two contemporary - which demand cold analysis. They are the Ched Evans case; the extraordinary case of Florida sheriff Earl Theriot; and the historical allegations against both comedian Bill Cosby; and the Conservative politician Leon Brittan. Where to begin?
On April 20, 2012, the then Sheffield United football player Chedwyn Evans was convicted at Caernarfon Crown Court of one count of rape. In the dock with him had been another footballer, Clayton Macdonald, who was tried for but acquitted of the same charge. Evans was given a five year sentence, and has recently been paroled. There are two controversies surrounding Evans, one is the soundness of his conviction, the other is the campaign to have him reinstated at his former club.
The facts of the case are sordid, and would be even if both men had been acquitted. Evans and Macdonald had been out clubbing, and were admittedly on the prowl for a woman or women to take back to a hotel room for sex. If you are not familiar with the term “roasting”, this is probably what they had in mind; they had clearly done this sort of thing before. Evans boasted to the police: “...we could have had any girl in that nightclub.
It’s not uncommon for us to pick up girls. We’re footballers, we’re rich and we’ve got money, that’s what girls like.”
Clearly this kind of arrogance can have only alienated the jury. At the time, it was difficult to feel sorry for Evans, and it still is, however, arrogance aside, the findings of fact of the appellate court have now been published. The salient facts are that the teenager he was convicted of raping had been drinking heavily, but had gone to the hotel voluntarily where she had had sex with Macdonald voluntarily. She did not remember this, and claimed she had no cogent memory of anything after around 3am. When she awoke the next morning, she was in the room alone, naked, and had wet herself.
She went to the police, who had her examined. She had no physical injuries, although traces of both cannabis and cocaine were found in her system. She believed too not only that her handbag had been stolen but that her drink had been spiked. Neither of these things had happened.
Macdonald backed up the claim by Evans that all the sex that occurred in that room had been consensual, yet the jury still convicted Evans of rape on the basis that the complainant had been too drunk to consent. Again, leaving aside the sordid nature of this case, this is bad news for any man who has sex with a woman who has been drinking alcohol and who claims she cannot remember what happened the night before.
Whether or not Evans succeeds finally in having his conviction quashed, should he be allowed to resume his footballing career? If he were less than a talented soccer player there would be no interest in his fate. Men are discharged from prison every day for crimes great and small, then resume their lives as best they can. If a man is a doctor, an accountant, or some such, he will usually face a drastic change of career, and often an even more drastic fall in income. What though of professional sportsmen? Clearly Evans should be permitted to resume his career, which will be short lived, although when he is older he could move into coaching or even management, though he will certainly never become a sports commentator. But should his club take him back? Sheffield United portrays itself as a family club; it even runs a local charity. It has a stand named after Olympic golden girl Jessica Ennis, and it has a girls’ team.
Not even his most virulent detractors would suggest Evans is a danger to women and girls, but do Sheffield fans really want that sort of image to be associated with their club? Two years ago, in one of the most contrived, perverse and wasteful prosecutions ever mounted in this country, Chelsea player John Terry was dragged into court by Britain’s politically correct police for mouthing a racial epithet on the football field that no one actually heard! Although he was rightly acquitted, Terry was sanctioned by the FA. He received a four match ban and a massive £220,000 fine. Last month, the brother of the other man involved in that incident, Rio Ferdinand, was fined £25,000 for making offensive comments on Twitter. If professional footballers want to live up to their name - ie professional - they need to behave at all times in a professional manner, on and off the field.
While one may believe Evans to be either guilty or the victim of a miscarriage of justice, the same cannot be said of Louisiana police chief Earl Theriot. This case beggars belief.
In November of last year, Theriot, who was Chief of Police for Sorrento (population circa 1,250), received an emergency call which led him to a woman who was described as unresponsive. That word can mean many things; in this case it meant drunk, but Theriot was not to know and should certainly not have assumed that. For all he knew she could have been seriously ill; she should have been conveyed to hospital, or at the very least checked out by a doctor. Instead, he took her to his office where he was said to have engaged in "inappropriate sexual contact" with her.
Exactly what happened is not clear; he claimed the sexual contact was voluntary, she said it was not, and that he had forced her to perform oral sex on him. While it is not always wise to believe the claims of an alleged sexual assault victim uncritically, Theriot admitted lying repeatedly to the FBI. That surely undermines his credibility. In Louisiana, forced oral sex constitutes rape, indeed it might be argued that Theriot committed aggravated rape because not only was she drunk but clearly he abused his power over her to slake his lust.
Instead of being charged with rape and allowing a jury to decide who was telling the truth, Theriot was allowed to cop a plea which saw him walk away a free man with two years probation, a $2,500 fine and of course losing his job. It is not clear if he will also lose his pension. Granted that Theriot had a spotless record and is in poor health - though clearly not so poor that he couldn’t engage in sex, forced or otherwise - but there are some offences that warrant immediate gaol time. If a woman isn’t safe in police custody, where is she safe?
There is also one question that appears not to have been asked, has he abused his position of sheriff like this before? However you read this case, what Theriot did was far worse than anything Ched Evans may have done.
From contemporary sexual outrages to historic ones with a capital A for Alleged. Firstly, the allegations against Bill Cosby. In the US, Cosby is as big a star as was Rolf Harris in the UK. Unlike Harris he will not be dragged into court by a gaggle of demented women and corrupt prosecutors because of the statute of limitations. In Pennsylvania where Cosby grew up, an allegation of rape that is more than twelve years old will not be prosecuted.
There are parallels between Cosby and Harris. They are both charismatic veteran entertainers, and they both appear to have secret lives that are not totally in synch with their avuncular images. Like Harris, Cosby has had one and only one wife; he has also played away from home. In 1997, he paid off a former mistress, something that is well-known. He was also the victim of a blackmail attempt, which again is well-known.
There is worse to come though; in 2004, a woman named Andrea Constand accused Cosby of indecently assaulting her. The legal authorities declined to file charges, but she brought a civil suit against him. The public airing of this allegation prompted another woman to come forward and accuse him of drugging and attempting to rape her. This accuser, Tamara Green, was a lawyer, and her allegations date back thirty years!
Other women came forward with similar claims, making a total of 13. This may have been what persuaded Cosby to settle the case with Constand out-of-court. This sort of thing is what has become known as corroboration by volume, something that sounds a lot more compelling than it actually is, even when the allegations made are “strikingly similar”. To give just one example of this, one of the victims of Operation Yewtree was the comedian Jimmy Tarbuck. He was accused initially of one historic sexual assault, on a man, an under age boy at the time. After this became public news, no fewer than five women can forward and accused him of indecently assaulting them in 1963. All these allegations were demonstrably false. Whether or not some or all of these women were lying, demented, or some permutation of these and other things, there is no doubt the allegation was false: wrong date, wrong venue, wrong man.
Should the allegations against Bill Cosby be taken seriously? Almost certainly not, but Cosby appears now to be at the centre of a sustained campaign which may or may not die down.
The final case to be discussed here is Leon Brittan. Brittan served as Home Secretary for two years in the Thatcher Government. Anyone holding high office is a potential target for scurrilous allegations. The Thatcher years were more controversial than most, among other things Thatcher took on the unions - the miners’ union in particular - and won. Brittan is also a Jew, which is the green light for all manner of nutters to crawl out of the woodwork.
At this time, a rumour was started about Brittan indecently assaulting under age boys. There were various versions of it; if you were around in the 1980s you may have heard that he had been arrested in Brighton on child sex charges, which were covered up. In later years, Tony Blair would be the target of a similar rumour (read lie), in particular that he had been arrested for “cottaging” in 1983 and had appeared in court under a false name.
In 2000, Tony Blair’s eldest son Euan was arrested in the West End of London for being drunk and incapable. This should not have been made public because he was only 16 at the time, but someone leaked - or more likely sold - this information to the media. If the Prime Minister can’t cover up something of that nature, how can he or less senior politicians cover up something like organised child abuse? People who make these claims simply do not understand how governments work, nor human nature, if the truth be told.
The latest nonsense about Leon Brittan is that he is part of a paedophile ring. He has been named recently by the MP Jim Hood under Parliamentary privilege, but there is even more. Earlier this year he was questioned by the police after a woman came forward and claimed he raped her at his flat. In 1967! Under age boys and grown women - is there no end to this silliness? Perhaps silly is not the right word considering what happened to both Rolf Harris and Max Clifford.
The forthcoming Government inquiry into allegations of historic sexual abuse has hit the buffers because the two women mooted to run it are said to have social “links” with Leon Brittan or to be biased for other reasons. If and when this inquiry goes ahead there are one of two possible results. One is that it will turn up nothing significant, which will result in cries of whitewash. The other is that we could see more prosecutions on evidence that no reasonable person would consider evidence, further waste of public money, and even worse, more shocking miscarriages of justice.
Although the Jimmy Savile “revelations” may be the catalyst for the current hysteria, it can be traced back to the Satanic abuse panic of the 1980s. The missing dossier of the late Geoffrey Dickens, the misdiagnoses of Dr Marietta Higgs (the Cleveland scandal) and the fantasies promoted by at least one therapist lie at the heart of it. Whatever genuine cases of child abuse, rape or other crimes that come to light (if any) will be wholly disproportionate to the cost, both in financial terms and in the effects on people’s lives.
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