FORMER England captain John Terry will learn today whether he has been found guilty of what was yesterday termed “straightforward racial abuse” of QPR footballer Anton Ferdinand during a match last year.
A week-long trial and months of claim and counter-claim, which have already seen Terry stripped of the national armband and Fabio Capello resign as head coach, will reach a climax at around 2pm this afternoon when chief magistrate Howard Riddle delivers his verdict.
Chelsea defender Terry admits uttering the phrase “f****** black c***” in the direction of Ferdinand during a Premier League match on 23 October 2011, but denies committing a racially aggravated public order offence. He argues that he said the words in a questioning manner in response to what he thought was an accusation of racial abuse.
If found guilty, Terry faces a fine of up to £2,500 but not a jail term.
Prosecutor Duncan Penny QC told Westminster Magistrates Court yesterday that Terry had used the words not as a question but as an insult, in response to taunts about an alleged extra-marital affair with the former partner of then-England colleague Wayne Bridge.
“Just as he did with the hand over the mouth to imply bad breath, just as he did with the ‘f*** off, f*** off’ directed towards Mr Ferdinand, and finally, when he was fed up, he picked up on the topic of Mr Ferdinand’s abuse, namely the extra-marital affair, and retorted with ‘and yours’, or something to that effect, and straightforward racial abuse,” Mr Penny said in his closing argument.
The notion that Ferdinand deliberately falsely accused Terry, 31, of racial abuse in the heat of the moment because other barbs had failed was unlikely in the context of their quickfire, tit-for-tat verbal spat, Mr Penny said.
“A false allegation of racism would be an accusation which involved more sophisticated thought processes than had hitherto been going on on that football pitch,” he added, on the fourth day of then trial.
Ferdinand was “inconsistent and unreliable” in his testimony, George Carter-Stephenson QC argued for the defence, adding that the prosecution’s argument was founded on “speculation”.
“No matter what the words actually were, if they were or may have been Mr Terry repeating back what he believed Mr Ferdinand had accused him of, then that’s the end of this particular case,” he said.
Carter-Stephenson said it was “inconceivable” that Terry would have snapped at taunts about the alleged affair, having been subjected to them “hundreds” of times before.
He also suggested it was possible that Terry had misunderstood Ferdinand’s jibes, wrongly interpreting the word “Bridge” as “black” – words the defendant’s Chelsea colleague Ashley Cole told the court on Wednesday he had been unable to distinguish from his standpoint.
Capello quit the England job in February in dispute with the Football Association over its decision to strip Terry of the captaincy while the allegations remained. The trial was originally scheduled for February but postponed until after the European Championship, during which Terry played for England in all four games.
The trial continues.
TERRY TRIAL: EXPLAINED
WHAT TERRY SAID
All parties agree that John Terry said the following words during an exchange with Anton Ferdinand in the closing stages of Chelsea’s 1-0 defeat at Loftus Road on 23 October last year.
“F*** off, f*** off…
F****** black c***…
The case hinges on the intention behind Terry’s words, with two primary explanations.
The defence argues that Terry thought Ferdinand had shouted an accusation along the lines of “did you call me a black c***?” and was repeating it back as a question, in the manner of “f****** black c***?”, before adding “f****** knobhead”.
The prosecution argues that Terry’s words were the latest in a series of insults the pair were exchanging at that moment, and were uttered because Terry became angered at Ferdinand taunting him over an alleged affair.
THE THIRD WAY
The defence yesterday advanced an alternative explanation: that Terry misunderstood Ferdinand’s verbal volley, wrongly interpreting “Bridge” as “black”. Terry’s Chelsea team-mate Ashley Cole said in his testimony on Wednesday that he believed Ferdinand had shouted one of the two words at Terry, but could not detect which.