Former England captain John Terry has been found not guilty of racially abusing Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand.

Chief Magistrate Howard Riddle cleared the 31-year-old of the racially aggravated public order offence at Westminster Magistrates' Court this afternoon.

The alleged incident occurred during a Premier League match between QPR and Chelsea last October.

Giving his verdict, Mr Riddle said the case was not about "whether Mr Terry is a racist in the broadest sense of the word".

He said he had heard a great deal of evidence to show that he is not. "It is understandable why Mr Terry wants to make this point, his reputation is at stake." 

The 31-year-old Chelsea captain had denied the charge and was present at Westminster Magistrates' when the verdict was delivered. He made no comment but was cheered by a small group of Chelsea supporters as he was driven away.

The Crown Prosecution Service defended the decision to prosecute the former England captain.

Alison Saunders, Chief Crown Prosecutor for London, said: "The very serious allegation at the heart of this case was one of racial abuse.

"It was our view that this was not 'banter' on the football pitch and that the allegation should be judged by a court.

"The Chief Magistrate agreed that Mr Terry had a case to answer, but having heard all of the evidence he acquitted Mr Terry of a racially aggravated offence.

"That is justice being done and we respect the Chief Magistrate's decision."