John Terry will stand trial today, accused of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand when Chelsea met QPR back in October.
The incident cost Terry the England captain’s armband at Euro 2012 and Fabio Capello his job as Three Lions boss after the case was pushed back until after the tournament in Poland and Ukraine.
With a media storm brewing as one of the most high-profile footballers in England faces up to a criminal conviction, what are the facts surrounding the case?
Where is the case taking place?
The case will be heard in Westminster Magistrates’ Court, with Chief Magistrate Howard Riddle overseeing proceedings. The Prosecuting counsel is Duncan Penny and the Defence counsel is George Carter-Stephenson QC
So what has Terry actually be charged with?
The charge facing the Chelsea defender, a racially aggravated public order offence, is as follows: "On 23rd October 2011 at Loftus Road football ground you (Terry) 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 thereby and at the time of doing so, or immediately before doing so, demonstrated hostility towards that person based on his membership or presumed membership of a particular racial group contrary to section 31 (1) (c) of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998."
So what is the evidence being used by the prosecution?
During the game in question at Loftus Road back in October, Terry seemingly hurled a volley of racial abuse aimed at Ferdinand.
The Chelsea defender was captured on camera shouting at Ferdinand, with the footage suggesting he said: “f*** off, f*** off.....f***ing black c***, f***ing nobhead” having allegedly been provoked by the QPR man, who bought up Terry’s affair with former colleague Wayne Bridge’s fiancé, Vanessa Perroncel. Expert lip readers later confirmed Terry's words and in court this morning the England defender did not deny what he has been accused of saying.
Does Terry deny the charge?
This morning his defence team confirmed his not guilty plea issued last month. Terry’s team will claim that he used the comments (above) as a way of questioning an unfounded accusation leveled at him by Ferdinand, saying this morning that he: ‘Uttered by way of sarcastic exclamation or enquiry in relation to a perceived accusation by Mr Ferdinand”. The two initially clashed after Ferdinand felt Terry had gone down cheaply for a penalty.
What is Ferdinand’s evidence?
Ferdinand gave evidence this morning and said he did not hear Terry racially abuse him on the pitch, and admitted that he tried to antagonise the Chelsea defender over his affair with Veronica Perroncel.
The QPR man also said that he spoke to Terry after the game and said that he hadn’t made any allegation of racial abuse during the 90 minutes, throwing into doubt Terry’s defence that he was repeating what Ferdinand had already said.
The prosecution claimed earlier that Ferdinand had only been made aware of the alleged racial abuse by his girlfriend, who showed him the TV footage which had gone viral having been posted on YouTube, later on. His evidence is ongoing.
What can we expect to see over the course of the trial?
The trial is listed to last around five days until July 13. The trial will hinge on whether it can be proved beyond reasonable doubt that Terry’s remarks captured on film and those captured by cameras which were not broadcast were racially motivated having been provoked by insults over his private life or if he genuinely was repeating an accusation made by Ferdinand.
Terry’s Chelsea team-mates Ashley Cole and John Obi-Mikel, who were nearby at the time of the incident, will not be called to stand trial. Cole spoke to Ferdinand after the game and suggested he was out of line for bringing up Terry's affair with Perroncel. Ferdinand will give evidence as will four police officers and a lip reading expert. Numerous statements from other witnesses will be read out.
Terry is not required to give evidence but may do so if called upon by his defence team. The case is being heard in a magistrates court, so there is no jury.
How comes Luis Suarez was charged and banned by the FA for racially abusing Patrice Evra, and John Terry is in court?
John Terry will still likely face a ban next season if he is found guilty, and one longer than the eight game suspension Luis Suarez received for racially abusing Patrice Evra, but as soon as it became a criminal matter then it was in the hands of the courts.
The key difference is that a member of the public made a complaint to the police about Terry’s on-field comments which prompted a Metropolitan police investigation into the matter. Suarez's case was dealt exclusively with by the FA, who will continue with their own investigation into the incident when the Crown Prosecution Case is over.
What if Terry is found guilty?
The maximum sentence for the offence is a fine of £2,500. The reputational damage suffered would be far greater than that.