Chelsea and England captain John Terry will face criminal charges for the alleged racist abuse of Anton Ferdinand during Chelsea's 1-0 loss at Queens Park Rangers in October. Terry was recorded on video and reported by a member of the public over the incident, and the police had recently asked for (and presumably received) more evidence from QPR. After a series of interviews with those involved, Alison Saunders, Chief Crown Prosecutor for London, has opted to summon Terry to court:
I have today advised the Metropolitan Police Service that John Terry should be prosecuted for a racially aggravated public order offence following comments allegedly made during a Premier League football match between Queen’s Park Rangers and Chelsea on 23 October 2011.
The decision was taken in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors and after careful consideration of all the evidence, I am satisfied there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction and it is in the public interest to prosecute this case.
Mr Terry will appear before West London Magistrates’ Court on 1 February 2012.
He is now summonsed with a criminal offence and has the right to a fair trial. It is extremely important that nothing should be reported which could prejudice his trial.
This isn't necessarily bad news from Terry's standpoint, although it is an unwelcome distraction at best. The fact that criminal courts have a higher burden of proof than an FA tribunal mean that with any given set of evidence it will be corresponding harder to find him guilty, and the increased likelihood of Terry being count innocent in the court system will make it more difficult for the FA to try him down the line.
In truth, the potential fallout from the court case is only really relevant insofar as it influences a) the public opinion of John Terry and b) the findings/punishment of the FA tribunal that will start up following the conclusion of the trial. The fine if he is found guilty is a mere £2500 with no jail time, and although I couldn't afford that it's only a drop in the bucket for Terry (compare to Luis Suarez's £40,000!). It's the FA Terry really has to worry about here, and if he's found guilty in the criminal courts he's pretty screwed in that hearing.
Many are saying that at this stage, Terry should be presumed innocent until proven guilty, which is of course true of the court and media outlets, but not necessarily of the public. Presume what you want. Personally, I'm going do what Chelsea have done and support Terry until we're all in full possession of the facts. If he's found innocent, fantastic. Otherwise, I'd have real difficulty supporting him should he remain at the club. But since I don't know one way or the other, I can't possibly say how I'll feel about this by the time this has run its course in February.