Issues that extended into the social and political realm are often the most challenging to address from our end of things--there's always a fair bit of hand-wringing about how it's going to go over, both in the original post and in the comments. Challenging subjects make for challenging writing, whether it's matters that occur on the pitch or off. So consider this a buffer that we'll be sticking to the facts here, and as soon as possible we'll be heading back to the football, especially with kickoff 18-odd hours away.
Right, the facts. Earlier today, Raheem Sterling was found not guilty of assault against his girlfriend, an incident that was alleged to have occurred in early August. The Telegraph has the full account of the court proceedings, which include a brief comment from Sterling's lawyer on Sterling's girlfriend failing to be classed as a hostile witness, which in this case would mean a witness hostile towards the accused party on the basis of the claimed grievances which led to charges being filed in the first place:
"A hostile witness is just that; and it requires a lot more than a witness who disappoints the prosecution by saying things happened in a way that doesn't amount to a criminal offence. That's just what we have here."
Further included are quotes from Sterling's girlfriend, who stated that they were "pushing and shoving" one another over a text message on his phone, which he apparently refused to turn over. Her evidence amounted to not being treated as a hostile witness by the court, and with her original complaint being the basis of the charges it led to the case collapsing. That is, it seems, the end of that for Sterling, who will now turn to his likely inclusion in tomorrow's squad to face Southampton at Anfield.
That's also hopefully that for a young player who's found himself dealing with two different assault charges, both toward women, in the span of less than a year. Both times he was acquitted, so that's nice enough if we're into celebrating not committing crimes, but there's also plenty of accountability that needs to be taken on his part. On both occasions he's been involved in situations that compromise the well-being of himself and others, and that needs changing.
We can cite his youth, his elevated profile, and the roles of others in the situations, and that certainly has a place. So does highlighting the need for Raheem Sterling to understand his need for growth and maturity, and that his actions have consequences. The final outcome of his off-pitch issues this year will have ultimately been relieving for him, no doubt, but it also needs to have taught him important lessons about responsibility and conduct as he starts to move forward.