‘Rape tweet’ leads to further prosecutions

29 November 2013

The case arises from the prosecution and conviction of former Sheffield United striker Ched Evans who was imprisoned in April for a period of 5 years for raping a 19 year old woman.

The new prosecutions relate to seven men and three women from the North Wales and Sheffield areas for allegedly revealing the identity of the victim in Twitter and Facebook messages.  

Currently the law protects the identity of rape victims preventing the publication of any information which would lead to their identity being revealed.  Magistrates at Prestatyn heard that the victim was accused of "crying rape", "lying" and "money-grabbing" on the social networks.  Nine of the ten defendants have pleaded guilty to the charge some of whom were family and friends of the footballer.  Those who have pleaded guilty have stated that they were not aware that naming her was a criminal offence despite the fact that the law gives the victims and alleged victims of rape and other sexual offences life long anonymity.  

All ten defendants in the current case were charged with an offence of publishing material likely to lead members of the public to identify the complainant in a rape case contrary to the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992.  All nine defendants who pleaded guilty have been ordered to pay the victim compensation in the sum of £624 each.  The maximum penalty for this charge is a fine.  

District Judge Andrew Shaw said when sentencing the defendants that rape was one of the few crimes punishable by a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and that it was an offence which subjects women to the most intimate personal violation.  He said that the defendant's identification of the victim was done "without proper knowledge of the facts and without any heed of the feelings of the victim".  He said that in his view the defendants who were related to or were friends of Mr Evans had posted the comments with "deliberate malice" and said that in doing so their actions had "re-victimised this woman again".

The remaining defendant awaits trial in the new year.

The prosecutor told the court that following Mr Evans' conviction the case had attracted a large amount of interest both nationally and internationally, and that on Twitter alone there had been 6,000 hits.  The hashtag #ChedEvans was trending on Twitter soon after the verdict was passed in April.  Apparently the offence came to the attention of North Wales Police as there were a number of members of the public making complaints and complaints also being received from groups such as Rape Crisis.

Evans was convicted and sentenced at Caernarfon Crown Court in April and it was following the conclusion of his trial that the victim was named.  Mr Evans lodged an application for leave to appeal against his conviction and sentence, however this was refused by Judges sitting at the Court of Appeal earlier this month with the presiding Judge saying "we can see no possible basis which would justify us interfering with the verdict of the jury, which heard all the evidence and reflected on it after careful summing up by the Judge".  Mr Evans admitted having sex with the woman involved but the prosecution argued that she was too drunk to consent.  Mr Evans was convicted by a jury but his co-defendant, Port Vale defender Clayton MacDonald who also admitted having sex with the victim, was found not guilty.

The above is not legal advice, it is intended to provide information of general interest in current legal issues.