Go ahead, try out your lipreading: What does Chelsea's John Terry say to QPR's Anton Ferdinand in this video from back in October? If you see anything but "fucking black cunt," you're wrong, because that's totally what he said. He even cops to it.

This being England, Terry, formerly captain of the national team, was taken to court. Real, criminal court, not some soccer tribunal. To face a charge of a racially aggravated offense, which would have carried a small fine and no jail time, but that was the least of his worries. But Terry was cleared this morning, having successfully used the "I didn't mean it as a racial insult" defense.

This was a weird trial. Ferdinand never heard the words, and only found out about it after seeing the replay on YouTube. No players or officials made the official complaint, but rather an off-duty police officer, watching the game at home. And Terry's defense was that he was sarcastically repeating what Ferdinand had accused him of saying, not actually saying it. The magistrate found reasonable doubt, and Terry prevailed.

Ferdinand's account of the run-in:

"He called me a cunt, and I called him a cunt back. And he gave me a gesture as if to say my breath smelled. I said to him: "How can you call me a cunt? You shagged your team-mate's missus, you're a cunt."

And here are some selected passages from the chief magistrate's verdict.

The Crown say that Mr Terry responded by aiming the words "fuck off, fuck off, yeah, yeah and you fucking black cunt, fucking knobhead", and possibly one or more other words, at Mr Ferdinand.

The defendant does not deny that he used the words, "fuck off, fuck off", "fucking black cunt" or "fucking knobhead". His case is that his words were not uttered by way of abuse or insult nor were they intended to be abusive or insulting.

It is obvious, and again not in dispute, that at the time that John Terry said "black cunt" and "fucking knobhead" he was angry.

In cross-examination he accepted that he appears to use the word "and" and as a result the only difference between the prosecution and the defence is that the Crown alleged he says "you/ya fucking black cunt" whereas the defence case is that he said "a fucking black cunt?" There are missing words, and I have not been prepared to speculate as to what they may be.

A related point is the way that Mr Terry's facial expression changed at the moment he uttered the words "black cunt". He tells me, and I accept, that he has received countless taunts, from players and spectators, about an alleged relationship with a team-mate's wife. By the time of this match the taunts had occurred over an 18 month period. He had learned to live with them. They did not anger him. Later I heard evidence from Mr Buck and Mr Wilkins about his unusual qualities of self-control and leadership. I also heard about his disciplinary record. He has been sent off four times in 600 matches, and never for abuse. There can be little doubt from this, and from other evidence that I need not repeat here, that Mr Terry has, over the years, been subjected to the most unpleasant personal abuse and has had to learn to keep calm and continue to play football. On the account given by Anton Ferdinand, there is no obvious reason why John Terry should suddenly become annoyed by the repetition of this taunt.

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.

...

In those circumstances, there being a doubt, the only verdict the court can record is one of not guilty.

Like we said, this was a weird trial.

[Guardian]