PRIMA FACIE

The Football Association is agonising over the role of John Terry, the Chelsea and England footballer, and the part he will play in the forthcoming European Championships.  These will be played in June and July, and on past form, the English team will be back home in short order.

 As you will know, Terry faces allegations of racial abuse, and his legal advisers have persuaded the court to list the trial after the final of the Championships.  So the FA is faced with the prospect of Terry leading out the English team with a serious charge hanging over him, but his supporters point out that he is innocent until convicted, and to strip him of the captaincy, or worse still, to exclude him from the team altogether, would be tantamount to an admission of guilt.

It is worth remembering how Terry finds himself before the court.  After a police investigation, the Crown Prosecution Service were consulted, and after the usual navel gazing, decided to bring the charge.  There is a standard procedure adopted by the CPS before they bring a charge.  After considering the evidence, which includes any statements in denial from Terry, the CPS has to determine if there is a reasonable prospect of conviction.  That is the key to this matter, and one that should not be overlooked.

Needless to say, the test applied by the CPS does not mean that Terry will be convicted, it simply means that there is enough evidence to place before the court and, if accepted, would be sufficient to found a conviction.  As the lawyers would have it, there is a prima facie case to answer.

So if Terry is to play in the European Championships, and especially if he is to captain the team, the world and his dog will know that he stands accused of racially abusing a black player during a football match.  There are now dozens, if not hundreds, of black football players throughout Europe, and the world and his dog will hold its breath every time Terry goes into a sliding tackle on a black opponent.

And what happens if a black player, having felt the full force of one of Terry’s trademark tackles, complains that he has been racially abused?  After all, there’s no smoke without fire, and Terry is placing himself in an invidious position.

There are two options: bring the trial forward to a date before the start of the Championships.  If Terry is acquitted, end of story, and he is free to get on with the job he does best without a stain on his character.  Or, the less preferred option, exclude him from taking any part in the Championships, and possibly damage even further England’s faint hopes of putting on a good show. 

And what if he is subsequently acquitted?  The FA will finish with egg on their faces, not the first time, and Terry’s legal advisers will almost certainly seek substantial compensation for their innocent and rightly aggrieved client.

Time to rethink the whole sorry mess! 

NEWSROUND

Nothing really eventful this week to get one’s teeth into, or, for the linguistic purists amongst you, into which to get one’s teeth.

The government wants to teach children how to speak ‘proper’, a laudable aim, but too little too late. As one knows, comprehensive education has ripped the heart out of learning, and to most teachers, it’s simply a case of holding the line and escaping without serious injury as one day drifts aimlessly into another. The day when an examiner in a child’s written English test gave the unfortunate gobbler extra marks for spelling “F*** off” correctly, sounded the death knell for the three ‘R’s’ and any pretence at serious formal education.

For my part, it’s frightening to be right all the time, but happily for me, I’ve grown accustomed to it. I refer to my New Year’s prediction, made in December last and set out in my article Quick by Name and Plod by Nature, that Damian Green, the shadow immigration minister, would have all proceedings dropped against him, and guess what? Correct. Perhaps it’s apocryphal that the unfortunately named Quick has now resigned, and was last seen sinking below the horizon clutching his index linked pension and a goody bag of assorted perks. So all Damian needs now is a good lawyer [hint, hint] to draft his claim against Plod for unlawful arrest and detention and invasion of privacy, to name but a few, and that should take care of this year’s family holiday. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never felt comfortable with the name ‘Damian,’ regardless of how it is spelt. Shades of the Omen and the Anti Christ. But back to the plot. I hope he joins the invisible Jacqui Smith as a co-defendant. You remember her? Probably not, but when she’s not claiming expenses from the taxpayer for pornographic films and a bath plug, she is posing as Secretary of State for Home Affairs, and let’s face it, her home affairs make for unpalatable reading.

The ghost of Baby P haunted the corridors of the Old Bailey this week, after the creature responsible for his death was convicted of the rape of a 3 year old girl, and after she, now 4, gave evidence. Unusually for me, words fail me to describe the depths of human depravity to which this creature stooped, but he probably got an A* for his English test at school. Question: How do you cross examine a 4 year old child and suggest that her evidence is a tissue of lies? Answer: Not for 40 minutes. Get in and get out.

Continuing the infant theme, a 10 year old girl suffered serious burns after exposing herself under a pay as you tan sunbed, and will now have to avoid ultra violet light for the next 10 years. And guess what? Instead of blaming herself, her mother blamed the machine, and is calling on the government to ban sunbeds. I can imagine this call to arms, legs and torso will shoot up the list of the government’s priorities, along with the credit crunch, banking irregularities, the war in Afghanistan and how to avoid an electoral meltdown in 12 months’ time.

Question: How do you break the habit of a lifetime? Answer: With difficulty, if at all. News reaches me of a cabal of minor league aspiring politicians, with their roots in Pakistan, rigging votes in a big way by abusing the postal ballot system. It was the same system condemned recently as “not fit for a banana republic.” These aspiring politicians are now serving terms of imprisonment. But spare a thought for them. Back home, it’s par for the course. Corruption in that benighted country is endemic, votes are bought and sold at the drop of a ballot paper, and as the saying goes: “You can take the man out of Pakistan, but you can’t take Pakistan out of the man.”

And finally, on a more positive note, Wolverhampton Wanderers, that iconic football team for so long the bridesmaid and never the bride, have at last been promoted to telly land. They owe their promotion in no small part to the loyal support of my son Rupert, who has stuck by them through thick and thin, so well done Rupert, and come on ye Wolves.