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Jul 10, 2012

Terry: Racism 'not my character'

John Terry said he was "not prepared to take" being called a racist, his trial heard as it resumed in London on Tuesday.

Terry, 31, is before Westminster Magistrates Court over allegations that he racially abused Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand during a match at Loftus Road in October.

At the end of Tuesday morning's hearing, his barrister, George Carter-Stephenson QC, applied to the district judge, Chief Magistrate Howard Riddle, to dismiss the case.

The barrister said Ferdinand was an unreliable witness and the case was "so weak and tenuous it does not warrant it going any further''. The judge rejected the application, ruling that there was a case to answer.

Former England captain Terry is accused of calling Ferdinand a "f****** black c***" during the match, but told FA investigator Jennifer Kennedy in an interview a week after the allegations were made that racism was "not my character at all".

The court heard a recording of that interview, in which Terry said: "I have been called a lot of things in my football career and off the pitch, but being called a racist I am not prepared to take. That's why I came out and made my statement immediately. I am not having Anton thinking that about me, or anyone else. That's not my character at all."

Terry, who denies a racially aggravated public order offence, told Kennedy that Ferdinand was shouting abuse at him over his alleged affair with the girlfriend of ex-Chelsea team-mate Wayne Bridge.

He said he thought Ferdinand was accusing him of calling him a "black c***", adding: "I was taken aback by that. I have never been accused of that.

"I felt strongly about it and wanted to clear it up before I left the stadium or he got the chance to leave the stadium."

Terry's representative, Keith Cousins, told the hearing on Monday that his client had been "rhetorically responding" to what he thought Ferdinand had accused him of saying.

But Duncan Penny, prosecuting, said it was "unlikely" that someone's first reaction to being accused of racist abuse would be to repeat the same words.

He said: "Mr Terry's defence is 'my immediate reaction was to use exactly the same words, not surprise, nothing of that nature, just to repeat the words back'. You could form the view that is very unlikely."

Terry said he could not think of anything he said that would make the QPR player believe he had racially abused him. "I know I have nothing to hide," he added, but said he was aware that footage from the match "did not look good".

In his interview, the player said he had spoken to Ferdinand after the game along with his Chelsea team-mate Ashley Cole.

He said: "I said: 'Was you accusing me of calling you a black c***?' - my exact words - and he said 'No, not at all'. Terry then said "good", and that he did not want Ferdinand to think he had racially abused him.

On Monday, Ferdinand told the court he would have been "very hurt" if he had heard Terry racially abuse him. He said that, initially, he had not believed racist language had been used but, after his girlfriend at the time had shown him footage on YouTube, he had changed his mind.

Susan Whitewood, a lip reader, studied the footage and said the language in question had been used.

Terry was questioned by police in November, with a decision to investigate taken when a complaint was received from a member of the public. On Tuesday, the court heard that the complaint had been made by an off-duty police officer.

If he is found guilty of what would be a summary offence under the Crime and Disorder Act, the maximum punishment Terry could face would be a £2,500 fine.

The trial continues.