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Jul 12, 2012

Friday verdict in Terry trial

The prosecution and defence lawyers in the John Terry racism trial have made their closing speeches at Westminster Magistrates Court in London.

Terry, 31, is accused of calling Anton Ferdinand a "f****** black c***" during a match between QPR and Chelsea at Loftus Road in October. The Chelsea captain was investigated and charged after a complaint from an off-duty policeman.

On Thursday, the court was told he had used "straightforward racial abuse" against the QPR defender rather than - as claimed by his representative, Keith Cousins, on Monday - "rhetorically responding" to what he thought Ferdinand had accused him of saying.

Duncan Penny, prosecuting, had responded to that by saying it was "unlikely" that someone's first reaction to being accused of racist abuse would be to repeat the same words. Terry denies a racially aggravated public order offence.

Penny told the court that, on Terry's account, Ferdinand had used the words "calling me a black c***".

Terry says he repeated back the slur Ferdinand had accused him of - but that meant he had added the word "f******", Penny said: "If it's rhetorical repetition, why are any other words spoken by Mr Terry at all, beyond a black c***?," he asked.

Terry and Ferdinand had traded abuse in the build-up to the alleged racial insult, the court was told. Ferdinand taunted Terry about his alleged affair with team-mate Wayne Bridge's ex-girlfriend, while Terry implied that the QPR player had bad breath.

Penny said it was unlikely that Ferdinand would have had the "motivation or frankly the sophistication" in the heat of the moment to fabricate an allegation that Terry had used racial abuse.

"A false allegation of racism would be an accusation which involved more sophisticated thought processes than had hitherto been going on on that football pitch,'' he said.

He told the trial Ferdinand would not be the first alleged victim to have been reluctant to give evidence in court. "What was in this for Anton Ferdinand?" he asked. "This case will follow him for the rest of his career. He made it clear he did not wish to be here [in court].

"You may wish to ask yourself the question whether, in truth, he was brave to give evidence in this trial."

George Carter-Stephenson QC, for Terry, said the prosecution case was based on "speculation". "This is not a case about racism," he told the court. "The prosecution, in cross-examination, conceded that he is not a racist.

"The way that this case is put is that on this occasion Mr Terry completely lost his cool and made an inappropriate remark making reference to a physical characteristic of Mr Ferdinand, namely his colour, in response to words conceded to have been repeated taunts and insults referring to his alleged affair with Mr Bridge's partner."

He said that, other than the Chelsea defender's own account, there was no direct evidence of what he had said, and described Ferdinand as an "inconsistent and unreliable" witness who he said had lost his cool as he repeatedly insulted Terry during the match.

"No matter what the words actually were, if they were or may have been Mr Terry repeating back what he believed Mr Ferdinand had accused him of, then that's the end of this particular case," he said.

Carter-Stephenson said Terry would not have lost his temper over being goaded about the alleged affair because he had faced taunts "hundreds of times before". "It is inconceivable to suggest that the taunt from Anton Ferdinand... made him snap in the way suggested," he added.

Expert lip-readers were called in by both the prosecution and defence to view fotage from the televised match as part of the trial, but Carter-Stephenson told the court that lip-reading, even in controlled conditions, had an accuracy of only 60% to 80%.

He said Terry was "a truthful witness", adding: "He believes that Anton Ferdinand, on that night, accused him of calling Mr Ferdinand a black c***."

The case was adjourned until Friday afternoon, when Chief Magistrate Howard Riddle is expected to deliver his verdict.

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