Twitter storm rages as Irish footballers’ association whips contentious article from its website
Solicitor Stuart Gilhooly is the latest commentator to pile into the controversy raging around convicted rapist and footballer Ched Evans — and he, or at least his client and law firm, probably wish he hadn’t.
Indeed, it’s arguable that Gilhooly — who acts for the Professional Footballers Association of Ireland (PFAI) — should have known better in the first place and not penned a 1,800-word near dissertation on the Evans case, which has subsequently sparked a social media furore.
Whatever the subtleties — or lack thereof — involved in Gilhooly’s thesis, the solicitor appears to have forgotten the most important rule for lawyers diving into print — get the law right.
On three occasions in his comment article — which was published yesterday on the PFAI website — Gilhooly refers to Evans’ “alleged crime”.
Regardless of what one might think of the jury system, a conviction is a conviction and the need to refer to allegation goes out the window. Evans may well maintain that the 2012 jury verdict was arrived at unfairly or mistakenly — he has appealed to the Criminal Cases Review Commission — but he remains a convicted rapist.
Gilhooly has been reminded of that fundamental point rather forcefully through the good offices of The Twitter.
"This crime, as alleged, is at the bottom end". That's the bottom end of some imagined rape scale btw. I can't believe that piece.
— John O'Sullivan (@johngosullivan) November 17, 2014
And it now seems that PFAI Ireland has had second thoughts about the sense of chucking a hand-grenade into a battle that has little if anything to do with the organisation — Evans is, after all a Welshman playing in England. As of this morning, the article was removed from the site. But thanks to the glory of Google cache, Legal Cheek readers can still digest it and form their own opinions.
It’s probably not much of an excuse, but Gilhooly isn’t a criminal law specialist. He’s a partner at Dublin firm HJ Ward & Co, where he focuses on personal injury litigation.
He is, however, a prominent Emerald Isle solicitor, being a former president of the Dublin Solicitors Bar Association and a current member of the Law Society of Ireland’s ruling council. He’s also a keen hack, having been named journalist of the year in 2011 in the Irish Magazine Awards.
Indeed, Gilhooly is not the first to blunder around in the mire that is the Evans saga, which has been a social media minefield for all sorts. Sheffield-born television presenter Charlotte “Charlie” Webster also drew Twitter ire after she resigned her role as a patron of Sheffield United, the football club that had Evans on its books before his conviction and which was reported to be considering allowing him to train on release from prison.
Webster was making point of principle. But she took Twitter hits for being a hypocrite when it was revealed that several weeks before standing down from her role with The Blades, she had tweeted a gooey message about having met American boxing legend Mike Tyson and her regret at not having had the gumption to ask for a selfie with him.
Twitter users with reasonably long memories pointed out that in 1992 Tyson was convicted of rape for which he served a six-year prison sentence.