Ched Evans’ release after serving just half of his five year sentence for raping a 19-year-old girl has sparked controversy among the public, especially amidst discussions of him returning to professional football.
This case is distinctive and causing much discussion due to Mr Evans being in the public eye, but what does the law say when employing ex-offenders?
In order to assist ex-offenders, the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 was introduced to integrate them without the heavy stigma of their former conviction. Once a period of time has elapsed, their conviction becomes ‘spent’ and they are considered rehabilitated.
However, in cases of offenders such as Evans who have been sentenced to over 48 months for sexual offences, along with any offender who is given a public protection sentence, their sentence is never spent. In other words, when seeking employment upon release, this sentence will always have to be disclosed to a potential employer.
Lesser sentences will be spent, for example, a custodial sentence from 30 to 48 months will be spent after seven years and a custodial sentence of up to 6 months will be spent after two years. Many people would be surprised to know that an offence resulting in a fine would have to be declared for one year.
Following Evan’ release, Sheffield United have been criticised for allowing the footballer to train with them, let alone play for them. However, some high-profile employers make a point of employing ex-offenders as a matter of policy. DHL work in prisons, allowing prisoners to gain work experience as well as, crucially, a qualification and a number of those who have been through the programme, and have since been permanently released, are now employed full time within DHL.
Whilst the law allows for the smooth integration of ex-offenders, the case of Ched Evans returning to football has begged a number of questions including whether there is something fundamentally different about being a convicted rapist - which means that Evans should be treated differently to a person who committed a different serious criminal offense, or does his responsibility as a professional footballer mean that once a boundary is crossed, there is no coming back?