Friday, 21 November 2014

Crime and punishment

And I'm not talking about Преступлéние и наказáние, the book by Dostoevsky.  Or Dostoyevsky.  I've seen his name spelled both ways.  No, my subject is a bit closer to home and actually refers to a professional footballer who has recently been in the news.

The background story is that this gentleman (and I use the word in the loosest sense) was convicted of rape and sentenced to five years' imprisonment.  He was released about three months ago, having served just half the sentence.  Now I am not concerned here whether or not five years is an appropriate sentence for the crime, nor am I concerned that only half the sentence was served.  The length of the sentence and the time actually served are not germane to my particular problem.

As I said, the man concerned is a professional footballer and he was very recently allowed back into training with the club where he was previously employed, possibly - or even presumably - with a view to him once again becoming part of the team in which he was the star striker (goal scorer).  This led to a storm of complaints from members of the general public and from patrons of the club, including one woman who won a gold medal at the London Olympics and after whom a stand has been named.  She announced that she would ask for her name to be removed if the footballer continued to train with the club.

The general view was that he should not be allowed back with the club because:
  • he had been found guilty of raping a woman;
  • he had never shown any remorse for his crime; and
  • footballers are deemed to be role models for boys, a role for which he was patently unsuited.
Well, yes, I understand all that, but, on the other hand:
  • he never showed remorse as he still claims he was innocent of rape and the sex was consensual;
  • he has served the time in prison to which he was sentenced so, although the slate has not been wiped clean, a line has officially been drawn under the incident;
  • he has as much entitlement to earn a living as anybody else.
Would there be any fuss if the person concerned was a lorry driver or a bank clerk?  I think not.  Nor would there be much complaint if the crime was dangerous driving, and possibly a lot less than we have seen if it was dealing in marijuana.  

He has now been told that he is not welcome at the club's training sessions.  But is it fair or just that his punishment should be increased in this way?  Is this not one little step along the road to mob rule?  If we wish to have a justice system that decides guilt or innocence and sentences the guilty according to the law of the land, should we simply stand back and say nothing in his defence?

I confess I do not know.


joeh said...

I do see your point, but as one in the public eye his behavior effects his employer in ways not found as a bank clerk. For example, Woody Allen sexually molested his adopted daughters and eventually married one when she was only 17 and he was like 50+ and as a result his career was

Mike @ A Bit About Britain said...

You make some good points, BP. As does Joeh above. I confess I don't know, either.

(not necessarily your) Uncle Skip, said...

If we didn't treat professional athletes as newsmakers, would there be an issue?

I have opinions, but I'd rather ask questions.

Buck said...

The man in question DOES have a right to earn a living, but perhaps not in his chosen profession (trade?) due to its high visibility and role model aspects. OTOH, perhaps there was a miscarriage of justice since he maintains he is innocent. Knotty issue, indeed.