Did John Terry use threatening, abusive/insulting words.. within.. hearing/sight of a person likely to be caused.. distress? Yes.
Was it a racially aggravated abuse/insult under S28 of the Crime and Disorder Act (CDA) 1998, S5 of Public Order Act 1986 & S31(1)(c) & (5) of CDA there's a doubt, so...not guilty.
From the judgment:
"John Terry faces one allegation. It is said that on the 23rd October 2011 at Loftus Road Stadium London, W12 he used threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour or disorderly behaviour within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress and the offence was racially aggravated in accordance with section 28 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, contrary to Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 and section 31(1)(c) and (5) of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998.
To summarize: There is no doubt the words “Fucking black cunt” were directed at Mr Ferdinand. Overall I found Anton Ferdinand to be a believable witness on the central issue. It is inherently unlikely that he should firstly accuse John Terry of calling him a black cunt, then shortly after the match completely deny that he had made such a comment, and then maintain that false account throughout the police investigation and throughout this trial. There is no history of animosity between the two men. The supposed motivation is slight. Mr Terry’s explanation is, certainly under the cold light of forensic examination, unlikely. It is not the most obvious response. It is sandwiched between other undoubted insults. I believe that he is an unwilling witness, and would have preferred that this matter not come to court. There were discrepancies in his evidence. To a large extent this is what you would expect from a truthful witness. Much of what happened; happened in a brief period of time, in circumstances where the result of the game was more important than any individual argument between two players. I will return later to the discrepancies. [...]
So the question for me now is whether there is a doubt that the offence is made out. In all criminal courts in this country a defendant is found guilty only if the court, be it a jury, magistrate, or a judge, is sure of guilt. If there is a reasonable doubt then the defendant is entitled to be acquitted. [...]
The prosecution has presented a strong case. There is no doubt that John Terry uttered the words “fucking black cunt” at Anton Ferdinand. When he did so he was angry. Mr Ferdinand says that he did not precipitate this comment by himself accusing Mr Terry of calling him a black cunt. 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.
Weighing all the evidence together, I think it is highly unlikely that Mr Ferdinand accused Mr Terry on the pitch of calling him a black cunt. However I accept that it is possible that Mr Terry believed at the time, and believes now, that such an accusation was made. 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.
John Terry was on trial for using racially aggravated "threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour or disorderly behaviour within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress" as set out in section 28 of the Crime & Disorder Act 1998, Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 and section 31(1)(c) and (5) of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998.In those circumstances, there being a doubt, the only verdict the court can record is one of not guilty."
The case was not proven beyond doubt, so he was found not guilty.
None of the actors in this little drama have come out of it looking too good. The footballers behaved badly. They also seem to believe that vicious verbal abuse and offensive language is ok as long as there is no reference to colour?
The law (s5) determines that engaging in insulting words or behaviour is a criminal offence. That's pretty offensive itself in a modern democracy.
So I guess there are three remaining questions on the case.
Was it ok for the court to postpone the case until after the European championship finals for John Terry's convenience?
Do the FA now follow up by charging Mr Terry with misconduct as per the Suarez case last year?
More importantly, does the case help or hinder the campaign to get section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 repealed or updated?