DAY FOUR of John Terry’s trial for the alleged use of abusive or offensive language commenced with the closing statement of the Crown.
After three days of witnesses, video evidence and cross examinations both sides summed up their case at Westminster Magistrate’s court.
The prosecution case rests on the fact that Chelsea captain Terry was using the words ‘f***ing black c***’ to insult
Anton Ferdinand, and not in repetition of the allegation, as his defence suggests.
The Crown told the Magistrate: “In the sense of what Mr Terry was saying is what’s more important, than the precise words. We hope you come to an opinion that the sense of Mr Terry’s words were an insult, rather than a question.”
The defendant looked sombre and ashen as he sat in the dock, dressed in a dark grey suit, white shirt and muted striped tie.
Duncan Penny, for the Crown, explained that the defendant was using the words because he deemed Ferdinand’s race as a vulnerability; using his later head-to-head with goalkeeper, Paddy Kenny as an example.
The clip from the 84th minute of the Premier League game between Queens Park Rangers showed Terry gesturing with his arms to suggest that Kenny was overweight.
The prosecutor then went on to suggest that the Magistrate should treat the evidence of Ashley Cole, lightly.
He said: “You are advised to ignore the evidence of lip reading experts [by the defence] but you are expected to believe the words of Mr Cole from 25 yards away. There is no other evidence to support the words of Mr Terry.
“There is significance to that, as he [Cole] is the same distance away from Mr Ferdinand as Mr Terry. They want you to reject the Crown’s lip reading expert but accept the word of Mr Cole.” He explained that it came down to the reliability and credibility of the witness.
He continued: “Are you willing to accept the evidence of a witness [Cole] who admitted telling his lawyer to provide a neutral statement [to the Football Association]. The Crown would suggest you treat the evidence with a degree of caution.”
He then went on to question Cole’s explanation of what he claimed he saw Ferdinand say. “You may wish to consider whether the movement of the words ‘Bridge’, look the same as the movement of the word ‘black’.”
He urged the Magistrate to explore the QPR defender’s lack of motive for any such accusation. “This is an allegation of saying something racist, as opposed to playground abuse by grown men. It is very unlikely Mr Ferdinand, in the heat of moment with five minutes to go would have had the motivation or the sophistication to come up with something like this.”
Much of the former England captain’s defence summary was based on his so-called victim’s unreliability as a witness; along with the educational studies that state lip-reading is an art, not a science.
George Carter-Stephenson said: “The prosecution have produced insufficient evidence that Mr Terry didn’t have an honest belief he was being accused of racial abuse and merely repeating the statement.
“Whether this court is minded to reject in entirety Mr Ferdinand’s testimony is entirely up to the court. There may have been a misunderstanding or a misinterpretation by Mr Terry.”
The Magistrate agreed that at times people convince themselves that they are right, particularly as the length of time progresses from the original incident. But he chastised the defence for pointing out that Ryan Bertrand’s witness statement had extra relevance, because the young defender is black. Remarking: “That is simply not an issue in this case.”
Carter-Stephenson also suggested that the consistency of Terry’s evidence since the event, and the fact he released a statement hours after the game proved he was not guilty as charged.
In response, the Magistrate said he couldn’t know that as he had not read the defendant’s statement that was released, on October 23.
Carter-Stephenson continued by explaining why his client’s word was worth more than those of Mr Ferdinand’s.
“Mr Terry doesn’t use anything other than a normal type of football language. You’ve seen him giving evidence and cross [examination] and he will accept something if he feels it is right. He is a truthful witness.
“He believes that Mr Ferdinand accused him of calling him a ‘black c***’. These aren’t exchanges, they are simultaneous conversations. Before Mr Terry has finished the utterance there is another one on the table.
“He responds to what he believes is the allegation that he was abused by Mr Ferdinand. We don’t have any close-up footage of Mr Ferdinand. It’s impossible for any lip reader to formulate any view of what he is saying. The only evidence of what he is saying is what he told this court. It would be unsafe on the court to replace any reliance on his as opposed to Mr Terry and Ashley Cole.”
The case is adjourned until 2pm on June 13, when the Magistrate will give his verdict.