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Will Bernie be going to court?

NEWS STORY
19/07/2013

On Wednesday the Munich Regional Court announced that it had charged Formula One's boss Bernie Ecclestone with paying a £28.9m ($44m) bribe in connection with the sale of the sport to current owner, the private equity firm CVC, in 2006. In the wake of the announcement Ecclestone embarked on a whirlwind of interviews telling many media outlets that he isn't concerned by the situation and that it doesn't affect his position. It didn't stop the inevitable flood of error-ridden reports predicting the end of F1 as we know it.

As Pitpass pointed out back in May, the German legal system is very different to the one in the UK. When someone is charged with a criminal offence such as bribery in the UK the person in question is going to court like it or lump it. The case can get thrown out for lack of evidence but that only happens once it is already in court.

In contrast, in Germany when someone is charged with a criminal offence that doesn't mean they are going to court. Instead, what happens is that a judge decides whether the case should go to court and that is how things currently stand with Ecclestone.

His lawyers have six weeks to respond to the charges against him and the judge will then decide whether there should be a trial. You wouldn't have guessed that from reading much of the recent media coverage. "The lengthy and complex case is finally set to go to court," proclaimed one of the pieces which was written by someone who is presumably a dab hand at using a crystal ball. It is indicative of the general lack of understanding.

One of the articles claimed that charging Ecclestone has left F1 in "total chaos." Another piece was widely applauded on social media despite reading like an obituary of Ecclestone. Stories of his demise amuse the F1 boss no end because it gives him an easy opportunity to defy his critics. You would have thought that some reporters had been around long enough to realise that his obituary should only be unleashed when he really is a goner and that certainly isn't the case now.

Another recent article went a step further and alleged that "Mr Ecclestone has until mid-August to respond to the charges. The court will then decide whether to take the case to trial - it could be heard by mid-September."

One blogger, who sees himself as judge, jury and executioner in all matters F1, even went as far as to say that a European Arrest Warrant will be issued for Ecclestone. You had to have an eagle eye to spot this indiscretion because soon after the piece was posted it was altered to more closely reflect the truth. Despite wearing glasses, nothing escapes Ecclestone's gaze and Pitpass hears he was not best impressed with the original version.

The reality is that in September we should find out whether Ecclestone is going to court over this. If there is a trial, the chances of it starting then are incredibly remote. We don't have to look too far to find evidence for this.

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