Riddle explains Terry verdict
Chief Magistrate Howard Riddle has explained his verdict after John Terry was cleared of a racially aggravated public order offence.
Last Updated: 13/07/12 3:22pm
Chief Magistrate Howard Riddle has explained his verdict after Chelsea captain John Terry was cleared of a racially aggravated public order offence.
Terry had been accused of using a racist obscenity about Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand during a Premier League game at Loftus Road on October 23 last year.
Mr Riddle said the prosecution had presented a strong case, but that the only verdict he could reach was one of 'not guilty'.
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.
"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.
"There is no doubt that reasonably soon after the game he made the accusation to Mr Ferdinand. He confirmed that basic account in a statement on the evening of the match.
"He gave a very detailed account to the FA and later to the police. He gave evidence to that effect in this court. There have been minor discrepancies in the account.
"It seems likely that his belief that he was wrongly accused on the pitch has strengthened as time goes by, and I have discussed that above.
"However, his account has been subject to the most searching and thorough questioning on at least three occasions.
"Nobody has been able to show that he is lying. The lip readers do not provide evidence that categorically contradicts his account.
"What may at first sight have seemed clear to the non-expert, is less clear now. There are limitations to lip reading, even by an expert. I have assessed John Terry as a credible witness.
"The prosecution evidence as to what was said by Mr Ferdinand at this point is not strong. Mr Cole gives corroborating (although far from compelling corroborating) evidence on this point.
"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."