LONDON: Chelsea captain John Terry has been cleared off racially insulting Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand during a Premier League game at Loftus Road in west London on October 23 last year.
Chief magistrate Howard Riddle cleared the 31-year-old of a racially aggravated public order offence at Westminster Magistrates’ Court. Giving his verdict, Mr Riddle said the case was not about “whether Mr Terry is a racist in the broadest sense of the word.”
He said he had heard a great deal of evidence to show that Terry was not and added: “It is understandable why Mr Terry wants to make this point, his reputation is at stake.”
Terry left the court within minutes of the verdict and was escorted by aides past the media scrum. He made no comment but was cheered by a small group of Chelsea supporters as he was driven away.
The Crown Prosecution Service defended the decision to prosecute the former England captain. Alison Saunders, chief crown prosecutor for London, said: “The very serious allegation at the heart of this case was one of racial abuse. It was our view that this was not ‘banter’ on the football pitch and that the allegation should be judged by a court.
“The Chief Magistrate agreed that Mr Terry had a case to answer, but having heard all of the evidence he acquitted Mr Terry of a racially aggravated offence. That is justice being done and we respect the Chief Magistrate’s decision.”
Mr Riddle said the prosecution had presented a strong case but “even with all the help the court has received from television footage, expert lip readers, witnesses and indeed counsel, it is impossible to be sure exactly what were the words spoken by Mr Terry at the relevant time.
“It is impossible to be sure exactly what was said to him at the relevant time by Mr Ferdinand.
“It is not only that all of this happened in a matter of seconds. For a small part of the relevant time the camera’s view of Mr Terry was obstructed.We do not have a clear camera view of Mr Ferdinand, sufficient to pick up exactly what he said.
“No matter how serious the incident looks now, and how crucial the exact wording is now, at the time it was secondary to the key witnesses.They are professional footballers in the final minutes of a game where the result mattered to them both.
“They would naturally concentrate on the game more than on exactly what had been said to them or by them. There was the noise of the crowd. There is the fact that towards the end of a game players are not only physically tired they are also mentally tired. I don’t need evidence to tell me that.
“It is a crucial fact that nobody has given evidence that they heard what Mr Terry said or more importantly how he said it. He has given effectively the same account throughout. Insofar as there are discrepancies in his account, they are understandable and natural.
“He says that he was himself wrongly accused by Mr Ferdinand on the pitch of calling him a black c***. He has maintained that from the beginning.”
Outside the court, Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck said: “Chelsea Football Club notes and, of course, we respect the decision of the magistrate today. We are pleased that John can now put his mind to football and go back to training and do what he’s done for many years.”
Dan Morrison, Terry’s lawyer, said outside court: “The court has today acquitted John Terry of all charges. He has consistently explained his position to the FA, the police and to the court. He did not racially abuse Mr Ferdinand and the court has accepted this.
“John would like to thank his legal team for their hard work and his family, friends and Chelsea Football Club for their support.”
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