Mickey Blue Eyes...
The John Terry Affair
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Mickey Blue Eyes


Well, swipe me, guv, John Terry got acquitted in the latest football racism case. You can read the judgment herehttp://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/13_07_12_r_v_john_terry.pdf

It follows closely on the heels of The Luis Suarez Affair and the Euro 2012 warnings and gawd knows how many other racism "affairs" inside and outside football. Better brace yourself because there will be others. Nothing is more certain.


This is inevitable given our society's institutional racism, and has been since slavery was established as an industry three hundred years ago; there will be no change until remaining roots are destroyed. I haven't the slightest idea how long that will take. Nor has anyone else. Maybe it will never be complete. Maybe the law will never set an acceptable standard of consensual behaviour. But of course it isn't just British society that is racist: it is a curse of all humanity. There are no boundaries. I have seen it in one form or another throughout the world, and every case demonstrated that racism is cowardice and all racists are cowards. Ignorance is no defence in law, nor can it be a defence of racism.


Interestingly, the Terry affair coincides with latest census figures which show 55% of the population increase in England and Wales is due to immigration. You don't need a degree in politics to guess how this will be used out at the wilder fringes of British nationalism and xenophobia. There is a link.


But consider the John Terry case and its broader implications. Senior district judge and chief magistrate Howard Riddle found John Terry not guilty of racial abuse of Anton Ferdinand during a QPR V Chelsea fixture. Basically he believed Terry, not Ferdinand. According to Riddle there was insufficient evidence to prove the charge. He therefore found in favour of the white man over the black man even though Terry conceded he used the words "Fucking black cunt." In his summing up Riddle said, "It is a crucial fact that nobody has given evidence that they heard what Mr Terry said or more importantly how he said it."  In other words, it boiled down to who you believed. Riddle chose to believe Terry. This was a clear demonstration that in Anglo Saxon law what matters is what you can prove, that a court of law is not necessarily the same place as a court of justice. It is a difference non-lawyers rarely understand and one the legal profession don't seem too eager to explain clearly to their clients.


A generation ago I found this out the hard way during my only service on jury duty. It was a fairly complicated two weeks long case involving five defendants accused of theft. We the jury discussed the evidence for three gruelling days before finding them guilty by a majority of eleven to one. The discussions lasted beyond the period for a unanimous verdict and the judge directed us accordingly.


It wasn't exactly Twelve Angry Men but there were some interesting moments. One involved an older lady who initially said one guy was innocent because she "Liked his eyes." She changed her vote later. Another concerned the jury foreman whose only words throughout were, "They're getting a raw deal," but sadly was unable to explain why or provide evidence in support of his opinion. Nor can I readily forget the sharpest questions were posed in the jury room by the jurist who often seemed on the brink of dozing. You just can't tell with people. In summary it was a humbling experience that left you with few remaining illusions of human nature and its strengths and weaknesses; it also confirmed my instincts that trial by a jury of peers is vital to civilisation. As noted, the Terry case was decided by a judge-cum- magistrate. There is no way of knowing if the verdict would have been different had it been considered by a jury instead.


Now, my limited experience also convinced me that it is terribly dangerous to judge a case unless you have enough facts. After all, most miscarriages of justice occur when a jury are deliberately misled or denied evidence. If we aren't present for the whole of the case we are obliged to accept the verdict unless additional evidence surfaces later. The law cannot function otherwise. I was not present during the Terry trial......ergo I must accept the verdict.




I do not accept the words "Fucking black cunt" as innocuous in any context. They are vile. Having conceded he used them John Terry would have to explain very clearly to me why he used them and why they weren't racist. Very carefully and very clearly indeed. Magistrate Riddle obviously believed they were used without malice: he too would have to convince me, because (to put it mildly) I found his published summing up inadequate. In this fan it left a taste of institutional racism, though its legal basis appears to be watertight. Only Riddle knows if he arrived at his verdict because the accused was a white man. We can never assume thus unless we see evidence to the contrary. Suspicion is not evidence. And none of us were present in the court for the duration of the trial.


The problem for Terry and Riddle is that long term honest fans know that their sport is as riddled with racism as their society. However, that doesn't make it in the least acceptable. Black citizens endure it most days of their lives while others cannot even begin to understand what this means. The aggregate affect of "casual racism" is as bad as any single evil act. In some respects the drip drip affect is even worse.


Small wonder, then, the case drew the attention of leading anti-racism campaigner John Amaechi, who has been quoted:

"I understand the verdict from a legal point of view...My ire here is that this is the latest in a sequence of events in sport that demonstrates a backward leaning trend towards racism...Football, in particular, is anti-intellectual, bigoted and emotionally illiterate and all governing bodies, from the FA to the Premiership and FIFA, are predominantly straight, white, male dinosaurs...Just how many hundreds of thousands of pounds a week does it take for a footballer to start recognising that he should be a decent role model...What particularly irritates me is the argument that football is part of society and that if there's racism in society then there's racism in football. That misses the point...Football has the capacity to be so influential in society that it can lead us all in a more enlightened fashion. Instead it chooses not to...Their so-called pro-activity to eradicate racism in the game is nothing more than a PR stunt. They believe that they should be seen to be doing it."


His comments about football will find resonance among all well intentioned supporters of the game. I interpret the crux of his comments as, "You can't behave as a racist just because you see someone else doing it. You are responsible for your own actions." Amen to that.


Meanwhile, the Football Association may take action because their disciplinary burden of proof is at a lower threshold. Given the Luis Suarez affair it is difficult to see how they could honourably avoid it. But I wouldn't make book on them. It would be interesting too if that happened....then Terry took the FA to court on the basis of the Riddle judgment. There are times when the seventeenth century claim "The law is an ass" is entirely appropriate. Risking danger, judge for yourself if the Terry case is one of them.




Comments about The John Terry Affair
Just passing thru.... I'm a Black Londoner and your post is completely on point. Black people face this kind of "justice" every single day and many will make apologies for our abusers. I grew up around Millwall FC in the 70's and chose never to frequent any football match, because I did not want to hear vile racist chants. 30 odd years later, super rich footballers show us, just how far things have really moved on. But still, its far worst in mainland Europe. The UK should have some pride in that.
Adam, London, 4:05 PM 27/09/2012
Still Give up !!! Comment no 3 ?
loz kelly, Uttoxeter, 9:07 PM 19/07/2012
Unfortunately, racism is prevalent and present all around us. It wears many different coats and disguises but racism it is. If you’re a different colour, have a different religion or political view it often shows its ugly face. We hear of fundamental Islamic’s all the time; but you never hear of fundamental Christians or Atheists; apparently we have nothing to fear with those!! You only need to come from a different area within a country to feel abused Racism in football is nothing new it’s always been there and its nothing like what it use to be, but we still have a way to go. However, we only need to look beyond our shores and into Europe to see and hear how bad we use to be. Fifa as the worlds governing body only appear to be tokenistic and turn a blind eye to what ever goes on. Uefa are even worse. Look at the punishments dealt out in the Euro championships, Nicolas Bendtner got a heavier fine for showing sponsorship on his underpants, than the Russian and other country Football Association’s combined fines for blatant racism chanting; that’s how seriously they take Racism! I still don’t understand how John Terry got off, but I am also as mystified why the Saurez incident didn’t go to court. At the end of the day it is not justice that win’s, its rasism!!!
BilboBlue, Scotland, 11:40 AM 19/07/2012
Maybe it's time the fans considered a civil action. Certainly seems the media have declared Terry the victim in this case. The verdict, as stupid as it was, only stated there wasn't enough evidence, not that he has no case to answer. Players and supporters will be reluctant to come forward if this loophole is cemented.
Paul T, Manchester, 9:51 AM 19/07/2012
One point.... If i sat in the main stand and shouted that somebody was a c*&t of any description on or off the pitch, would i not be shown the door and asked not to return? One rule for one.... Thats football in 2012!
Mike, Liverpool, 4:35 PM 18/07/2012
He was guilty as sin, pity the magistrate was an atheist.
Macca, Huyton, 2:09 PM 18/07/2012
I would just like to ask a question regarding this. If there was video evidence of John Terry saying this and he admitted saying it but was still found not guilty, what chance do the FA have of eradicating this vile problem? The fact is now the prosecution of these individuals is called into question. Although you can prove they said it you may not be able to prove the way in which they meant it. Therefore they would walk away scot free. Ridiculous result and one which could affect footbal as a whole.
Ged, Speke, 1:03 PM 18/07/2012
Excellent article and glad that we can see well reasoned and researched articles on the net instead of twitter speculation. The tone of the media since this nonsensical verdict has been sickening. His whole manner caught on tape was threatening, the words were threatening. What more evidence is needed? Yet many papers actually claimed it shouldn't have gone to court. Some of the media have also declared that Terry is not a racist. Is it relevant? He is guilty of abuse, not 'being a racist'. If he knows it's ignorant, then it makes the charges more severe and more in need of condemnation.
Paul T, Manchester, 9:53 AM 18/07/2012
Perhaps commentators on this whole debate might like to condemn the use of the word 'cunt' too. Black or white. On and off the field of play.
Guy P, south coast, 9:08 PM 17/07/2012
This was a very disturbing case that shows again how racism runs right through our national sport. Shame on Terry, shame on us.
Spectator, Crosby, 7:49 PM 17/07/2012
If you use Suarez as the example to follow, then they have to fine and ban him. Otherwise we will never hear the end of the "witch hunt" jibes from Liverpool fans!
Warren, North Sea, 5:54 PM 17/07/2012
As well as them being heard by different bodies, another major difference between the Sorearse case and Terry's, was that Sorearse admitted using key words whilst Terry never did. Terry, it would appear, had better advice!! Having said that, I totally agree with Mike, Runcorn (4).
Joe Dids, Bury, Lancashire, 4:42 PM 17/07/2012
It's not a case of who he believed, it's not a balance of probabilities that's needed but beyond reasonable doubt which it clearly wasn't.
Tom RC, Bootle, 2:43 PM 17/07/2012
I didn't see or hear all the evidence either. I'll still stick my head out though and say Terry should have been found guilty. Good job I wasn't on the jury.
Tony, Stoneycroft, 2:25 PM 17/07/2012
The crux of the problem is, if you or I said exactly the same in the middle of the street end we would be banned from every ground for the next 3 years, whichever way we said it.
Gary, Kirkby, 1:24 PM 17/07/2012
Everyone knew that Terry would get off. He can do or say what he likes and get away with it. For the good of football the FA should throw the book at him. The man is a disgrace to the game. He thinks he is above the law. Its about time to put the horrible toad in his place.
Mike, Runcorn, 12:20 PM 17/07/2012
Could Ferdinand have been charged with verbally abusing an individual in public eg for disturbing the peace? He wasn't but if he could have been then one could argue that the system was bent in favour of him. You pays your money.......
steve c, ormskirk, 12:09 PM 17/07/2012
The way I understand it, I believe the FA's tribunal is akin to an internal disciplinary, therefore it doesnt HAVE TO PROVE that the incident occurred in the legal sense, it can base its judgement on the circumstantial evidence alone and can conclude that rascism did occur. Therefore it can legally make a judgement that Terry quite rightly made those racist comments in the manner that they were meant and not face retribution from Terrys lawyers other than at an industrial tribunal. I'm pretty sure the FA can go down this route IF they have the bottle to really try and stamp out racism.
kev, walton, 11:46 AM 17/07/2012
Well written but the point in this case is that the 'black' witnesses did not support the prosecution so the case was not adjudicated in favour of a white man. There was simply insufficient evidence to secure a valid prosecution against the accused.
Tom C, Bootle, 10:51 AM 17/07/2012
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