14 Jul 2012

Footballer John Terry cleared of racial abuse

8:55 am on 14 July 2012

Former England football captain John Terry has been found not guilty of racially abusing Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand during a Premier League match last October.

Terry denied committing a racially aggravated public order offence when he had an expletive-littered exchange with Ferdinand during a Premier League game last October, when Chelsea visited Queens Park Rangers' Loftus Road ground.

In evidence, the 31-year-old admitted using the highly offensive words, but maintained he was sarcastically repeating what Ferdinand mistakenly thought he had said.

Terry was at Westminster Magistrates' Court in London on Friday to hear the verdict following a five-day trial.

Presenting his verdict, chief magistrate Howard Riddle said the prosecution presented a strong case and said there was no doubt about the offensive words Terry used towards Ferdinand.

But in summing up he said: "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."

Mr Riddle said that, since there was a doubt, the only verdict the court could record was one of not guilty.

During cross-examination, Ferdinand agreed he had sworn at players in the past and been on the receiving end himself.

He said he was angry at Terry seeking a penalty call and there had been some barging on the pitch.

He had also alluded to an alleged affair between the Chelsea player and the ex-girlfriend of former England team mate Wayne Bridge.

The exchange of foul language triggered the resignation in February of England's Italian manager Fabio Capello after the Football Association decided to strip Terry of the captain's armband for Euro 2012.

The maximum fine if Terry had been found guilty would have been £2,500. The damage to his reputation would have been far worse.

He would have been likely to face a ban from England, for whom he has played 77 times in the last nine years.