Element of Doubt Enough to Save John Terry as Chelsea Captain Is Cleared of Racially Abusing Anton Ferdinand

Matt Scott, Telegraph (London), July 13, 2012

The central fact of the John Terry trial at Westminster magistrates’ court this week was that he shouted “f—— black c—“ at Anton Ferdinand. It was never in dispute.

The offending words were caught on camera and broadcast live to millions of viewers across the world from Loftus Road, where Chelsea were losing a Premier League game 1-0 to Queens Park Rangers.

But almost the instant the phrase left his mouth, Terry claimed to his team-mate Ashley Cole that Ferdinand had said it first, falsely accusing the Chelsea captain of racially abusing him.

In his judgment Chief Magistrate Howard Riddle seemed to reject Terry’s explanation. “It is inherently unlikely that [Ferdinand] should firstly accuse Terry of calling him [those words], then shortly after the match completely deny that he had made such a comment, and then maintain that false account throughout the police investigation and throughout this trial”, wrote Riddle. “There is no history of animosity between the two men. The supposed motivation is slight.”

John Terry and Anton Ferdinand

But even though he did not find Terry’s explanation of events persuasive, other misgivings nagged at Riddle. “However I accept that it is possible that Mr Terry believed at the time, and believes now, that such an accusation was made,” he said.

“It is therefore possible that what he said was not intended as an insult, but rather as a challenge to what he believed had been said to him. In those circumstances, there being a doubt, the only verdict the court can record is one of not guilty.” And that is the nub of it. Reasonable doubt. If it had been proved incontrovertibly that he said that despicable phrase as an insult to Ferdinand, Terry would now have a criminal record.

But, as Riddle helpfully spelt out in his judgment: “In all criminal courts in this country a defendant is found guilty only if the court is sure of guilt. If there is reasonable doubt then the defendant is entitled to be acquitted.” Terry’s legal team, led by George Carter-Stephenson QC, successfully argued in their submission that the evidence presented to the court did not meet the “criminal standard” demanded by a court of law to prove the charges against him. The Football Association’s tribunal system requires a very different standard of proof.

Football justice is considered on the balance of probabilities, a fact that will weigh heavily on the former England captain. Indeed, Carter-Stephenson’s “criminal standard” defence and Riddle’s judgment together invite the case to be reconsidered under football’s disciplinary processes.

“It is clear that the prosecution has built a strong case,” wrote Riddle. “I had no hesitation in refusing [the defence’s] submission of no-case-to-answer based on those facts.” So for all the reasonable doubt that saved him there was reasonable suspicion to try Terry and that is the balance that football must now consider.

It was not for a lack of evidence that the prosecution failed yesterday. But mitigating against it was how in crucial points in the footage Terry’s face is obscured, either by Ashley Cole’s or John Obi Mikel’s. As Terry himself pointed out from the witness box on Wednesday: “No one in this room can say. There’s no video on Anton and that’s the unfortunate thing.” This is where the criminal case falls down. “It is impossible to be sure exactly what were the words spoken by Mr Terry at the relevant time,” wrote Riddle. “It is impossible to be sure exactly what was said to him at the relevant time by Mr Ferdinand.

“Nobody has been able to show that he is lying. Lip readers do not provide evidence that categorically contradicts his account. What at first may have seemed clear to the non-expert is less clear now.” Riddle described Terry as “a credible witness”, adding that Ferdinand can reasonably be considered “brave” for having taken to the witness box. But the Chief Magistrate did speculate about why Terry sought out a steward to fetch Ferdinand in the away dressing room after the match.

“One explanation is that Mr Terry realised that what happened on the pitch could cause him serious difficulties,” wrote Riddle. “He wanted to head that off by a conversation with Mr Ferdinand. Mr Ferdinand either was or wasn’t aware of the comment, either from him or from Mr Terry.

“Either way he did not want to make anything of it and wanted to put the incident behind him. This seems to be the most plausible account of what happened.” The FA process will be a rehearsal of the same arguments, which contain terms that will have caused all but the most “industrial” Chelsea fan present to blench. Nineteen times “f—” or “f——” appear in Riddle’s judgment; 24 times the word “c—“. Even “knobhead” makes six appearances.

That is infantile, offensive, “playground abuse”, certainly. But in the eyes of the courts it is not a crime.

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  • loyalwhitebriton

    Wow! The court has made a common-sensical decision.
    If you look at what was said, and the circumstances in which it was said, and pay a visit to the ‘so-what’ factory, this case should never have gone to court.
    The fact that it did go to court is, however, yet another example of how Britain has fallen from the originator of free speech to an innovator of cultural marxism!
    On this occasion, however, the bad guys lost. Thank God for British common sense; we need more of it!  

  • Only in Bonkers Britain where the inmates have taken over the asylum.

  • JackKrak

    Meanwhile, actual victims of actual crimes had to wait a bit longer to have their day in court.

  • How long before you will not be able to identify individuals as white, black, brown, etc.?  It WILL be a crime to identify someone as a “Black male” or a “Brown skinned” female.  I think the ultimate goal is to completely erase the concept of race.  A person is simple male or female in the new UK.  At least in 1984 the people still had a sense of racial awareness.  

    • Only reason that might not happen is the “need” for affirmative action.  You know how that goes:  Profs in the anthropology department building say that race doesn’t exist – it’s just a social construct, and the black studies building is right next door.

      •  Yeah but then they would just change “Black studies” to “cultural” or “Non-UK based” studies. 

    • George Orwells 1984 book is a work of fiction. Tony Blairs Labour party used it as a blueprint to destroy the country.

  • Sylvie

    What is offensive here, the f-word, the c-word, or the b-word?
    Or is the f-word and the c-word only offensive when used in conjunction with the b-word?

  • ncpride

    For heavens sake, what a farce! Being in court for…. name calling?! The British government has lost its mind, and their people need a miracal to reverse it’s current path.

  • KenelmDigby

    The whole soory story was just a ridiculous over-blown media and politically driven circus for months. Something that should have been quitely and efficiently settled within soccer actually resulted in a criminal trial. Poor John Terry has been publically crucified for what he might or might not have said in a split-second flash of anger in a tense situation, playing a professional game that is founded on anger, will-to-power, aggression and pure instinctivism – soccer players at that level don’t self-censor. They see and they do.

  • IstvanIN

     The UK puts whites in jail for all sorts of racially insensitive comments, even ones not made to a specific person.  They have absolutely NO freedom of speech or association.  Much worse than here.

  • Guest

    The British elites  go to any lengths to charge racism.  Look at those two.  One is Northern European, one Southern European.  Anton is the Eeastern European version of Anthony or Antonio.

    Ferdinand is a very common Spanish first or last name.  Where is the racism?  I can’t see racism here with two Whites insulting each other.  The British elites better create the crime of “ethnicism” next November when Parliament opens. 

    How can the goverment call it racism when it is just different shades of white, pink and tan?

    Good thing  Ferdinand  isn’t arab, any kind of muslim, african, asian or oriental. Terry would have been scourged, beheaded and his head would have been posted on London Bridge as a warning to all other Englishmen who dare oppose the new religion of Anti racism..

    Any of you 1870’s style neo pagan nordic supremacy types who want to blast me with your idiot theories that only blue eyed Germans, Scandinavians, Scots and English, (but not Irish) are”White” , go right ahead.  Wallow in your 1870’s ignorance and give SPLC, NOW, ADL FBI DOJ etc etc even more ammunition to use against us.

    All your idiot theories don’t change the facts.

    • KenelmDigby

      Anton Ferdinand is mixed-race, born of an English mother and a Jamaican father.