THE JOHN TERRY AFFAIR
Mickey Blue Eyes
Well, swipe me, guv, John Terry got acquitted in the latest football racism case. You can read the judgment here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/13_07_12_r_v_john_terry.pdf
It follows closely on the heels of The Luis Suarez Affair and the Euro 2012 warnings and gawd knows how many other racism "affairs" inside and outside football. Better brace yourself because there will be others. Nothing is more certain.
This is inevitable given our society's institutional racism, and has been since slavery was established as an industry three hundred years ago; there will be no change until remaining roots are destroyed. I haven't the slightest idea how long that will take. Nor has anyone else. Maybe it will never be complete. Maybe the law will never set an acceptable standard of consensual behaviour. But of course it isn't just British society that is racist: it is a curse of all humanity. There are no boundaries. I have seen it in one form or another throughout the world, and every case demonstrated that racism is cowardice and all racists are cowards. Ignorance is no defence in law, nor can it be a defence of racism.
Interestingly, the Terry affair coincides with latest census figures which show 55% of the population increase in England and Wales is due to immigration. You don't need a degree in politics to guess how this will be used out at the wilder fringes of British nationalism and xenophobia. There is a link.
But consider the John Terry case and its broader implications. Senior district judge and chief magistrate Howard Riddle found John Terry not guilty of racial abuse of Anton Ferdinand during a QPR V Chelsea fixture. Basically he believed Terry, not Ferdinand. According to Riddle there was insufficient evidence to prove the charge. He therefore found in favour of the white man over the black man even though Terry conceded he used the words "Fucking black cunt." In his summing up Riddle said, "It is a crucial fact that nobody has given evidence that they heard what Mr Terry said or more importantly how he said it." In other words, it boiled down to who you believed. Riddle chose to believe Terry. This was a clear demonstration that in Anglo Saxon law what matters is what you can prove, that a court of law is not necessarily the same place as a court of justice. It is a difference non-lawyers rarely understand and one the legal profession don't seem too eager to explain clearly to their clients.
A generation ago I found this out the hard way during my only service on jury duty. It was a fairly complicated two weeks long case involving five defendants accused of theft. We the jury discussed the evidence for three gruelling days before finding them guilty by a majority of eleven to one. The discussions lasted beyond the period for a unanimous verdict and the judge directed us accordingly.
It wasn't exactly Twelve Angry Men but there were some interesting moments. One involved an older lady who initially said one guy was innocent because she "Liked his eyes." She changed her vote later. Another concerned the jury foreman whose only words throughout were, "They're getting a raw deal," but sadly was unable to explain why or provide evidence in support of his opinion. Nor can I readily forget the sharpest questions were posed in the jury room by the jurist who often seemed on the brink of dozing. You just can't tell with people. In summary it was a humbling experience that left you with few remaining illusions of human nature and its strengths and weaknesses; it also confirmed my instincts that trial by a jury of peers is vital to civilisation. As noted, the Terry case was decided by a judge-cum- magistrate. There is no way of knowing if the verdict would have been different had it been considered by a jury instead.
Now, my limited experience also convinced me that it is terribly dangerous to judge a case unless you have enough facts. After all, most miscarriages of justice occur when a jury are deliberately misled or denied evidence. If we aren't present for the whole of the case we are obliged to accept the verdict unless additional evidence surfaces later. The law cannot function otherwise. I was not present during the Terry trial......ergo I must accept the verdict.
I do not accept the words "Fucking black cunt" as innocuous in any context. They are vile. Having conceded he used them John Terry would have to explain very clearly to me why he used them and why they weren't racist. Very carefully and very clearly indeed. Magistrate Riddle obviously believed they were used without malice: he too would have to convince me, because (to put it mildly) I found his published summing up inadequate. In this fan it left a taste of institutional racism, though its legal basis appears to be watertight. Only Riddle knows if he arrived at his verdict because the accused was a white man. We can never assume thus unless we see evidence to the contrary. Suspicion is not evidence. And none of us were present in the court for the duration of the trial.
The problem for Terry and Riddle is that long term honest fans know that their sport is as riddled with racism as their society. However, that doesn't make it in the least acceptable. Black citizens endure it most days of their lives while others cannot even begin to understand what this means. The aggregate affect of "casual racism" is as bad as any single evil act. In some respects the drip drip affect is even worse.
Small wonder, then, the case drew the attention of leading anti-racism campaigner John Amaechi, who has been quoted:
"I understand the verdict from a legal point of view...My ire here is that this is the latest in a sequence of events in sport that demonstrates a backward leaning trend towards racism...Football, in particular, is anti-intellectual, bigoted and emotionally illiterate and all governing bodies, from the FA to the Premiership and FIFA, are predominantly straight, white, male dinosaurs...Just how many hundreds of thousands of pounds a week does it take for a footballer to start recognising that he should be a decent role model...What particularly irritates me is the argument that football is part of society and that if there's racism in society then there's racism in football. That misses the point...Football has the capacity to be so influential in society that it can lead us all in a more enlightened fashion. Instead it chooses not to...Their so-called pro-activity to eradicate racism in the game is nothing more than a PR stunt. They believe that they should be seen to be doing it."
His comments about football will find resonance among all well intentioned supporters of the game. I interpret the crux of his comments as, "You can't behave as a racist just because you see someone else doing it. You are responsible for your own actions." Amen to that.
Meanwhile, the Football Association may take action because their disciplinary burden of proof is at a lower threshold. Given the Luis Suarez affair it is difficult to see how they could honourably avoid it. But I wouldn't make book on them. It would be interesting too if that happened....then Terry took the FA to court on the basis of the Riddle judgment. There are times when the seventeenth century claim "The law is an ass" is entirely appropriate. Risking danger, judge for yourself if the Terry case is one of them.