Manchester United forward Mason Greenwood was arrested and taken in for questioning by police after being accused of domestic violence against his girlfriend. Shocking photographs of the woman, who shall remain unnamed, emerged on social media on Sunday 30th January, with images of bruising and a blood-splattered face igniting fury across the football community.
The 20-year-old England international has also been accused of sexual assault against her. Leaked voice notes suggest that he acted in an aggressive manner towards his ex-partner, saying that he ‘didn’t care’ [if she refused sex] and that ‘[Greenwood] asked [her] politely, and you wouldn’t do it, so what else do you want me to do?’
Manchester United released a statement, stating that the forward would no longer be allowed to train with the club and will play no games until further notice and that they ‘do not condone violence of any kind.’ Sportswear brand Nike, who have a partnership with Greenwood, announced they were also suspending their relationship with him, pending investigation.
Under UK law, the premise of the justice system is the presumption of innocence. The overriding principle is that a person must be proved guilty in a court of law before passing judgment. This may anger a lot of people, especially with the photos and voice messages being seen as proof that he is guilty, but the public shouldn’t be so hasty.
Manchester United have suspended Greenwood with pay, which has angered fans. However, being accused of rape and being convicted of it are two different things. It is understandable how bad it looks for Greenwood, and if he is convicted then his United (and football) career is over, but as it stands he’s an innocent man, pending further investigation.
Therefore, Manchester United have no legal basis upon which to suspend him without pay. It may anger people, but that is the justice system. If there are no criminal charges, clubs are powerless. Trial by courts trump the court of public opinion, every single time, and clubs are obligated to adhere to British employment law.
This is not to suggest that public opinion doesn’t matter. Ultimately football clubs are fuelled both financially and culturally by fans, which gives them a lot of influence in how clubs operate and function. To suspend Greenwood with pay could have potentially disastrous PR consequences, as many would feel that the club is effectively paying an alleged rapist and violent domestic abuser a fortune.
With that being said, it’s important to focus on the main aim of this incident, which is to thoroughly investigate the situation and distribute appropriate consequences to any and all individuals involved.
To not condemn Greenwood immediately is not to defend him; it is simply to withhold any judgment and condemnation until the case is concluded, which requires faith in the justice system and the moral framework upon which it is based.
Ironically, the very people who are quick to condemn him by sharing the media online actually have the potential to undermine true justice; social media use by jurors could compromise the investigation and lead to a mistrial, meaning the case could be re-opened at a later date (by which point many victims sometimes agree to take a settlement) or worse – the case being thrown out altogether.
It’s entirely possible that a person who chooses to share this media on social media could be found in contempt of court; as Greenwood has been arrested, the case is now active.
This would mean that, even with evidence, Greenwood would ‘get away with it’; an unintended consequence of the Twitter mob.
There are many people who believe that to believe in due process is to defend the alleged perpetrator, which could not be further from the truth. It’s a simplified, tribal and intellectually dishonest way of discussing such a sensitive and nuanced situation.
As a defendant, Greenwood has the right to be treated fairly just like any other citizen. As such, he has the right to defend himself in a court of law before a jury. Being a high-profile footballer does not make him ineligible to a fair trial, as it would undermine British law.
The public is correct to be outraged at the situation, but their anger should be withheld until a formal inquiry and conclusion have taken place. Amidst all the drama, we must realise that there is a woman who has been affected by this, and we must take care to not overlook her.
Posting videos on social media is not justice. An accusation is not enough to convict a person. To not believe in due process is to, by extension, not believe in the justice system and the moral and ethical framework that comes with that.
To believe in due process is not to defend or condemn the alleged perpetrator, but rather to believe in a system that thoroughly investigates, gives all involved an opportunity to speak (as required by British law) and, with evidence, delivers appropriate justice.
If there is no due process, there is no justice.