CHRIS Cairns is a free man.
The 45-year-old was acquitted of perjury late last night by a jury that had considered verdicts for 10 hours and 17 minutes following a marathon trial lasting eight weeks.
The New Zealand cricket legend and his friend Andrew Fitch-Holland were also acquitted of perverting the course of justice.
The pair, who have sat side by side in the dock at Southwark Crown Court, stared straight ahead and nodded when the verdict was announced just before midnight NZT.
Cairns then cried. He had kept his emotions mostly in check during the trial, but his relief was palpable when he heard the words "not guilty" in what was a majority verdict, meaning at least 10 jurors agreed.
Cairns, when released from the dock, sat at benches behind his lawyers, staring straight ahead.
Later, on the steps of the Southwark Crown Court, Cairns held a short press conference where he thanked his family and legal team.
He had spoken to his wife Mel and their two children, he said, and choked up when he mentioned them.
Cairns said the trial had been rigorous and he was exhausted.
"I have been put through the mill and come through the other side. I just think having been through the Royal Courts of Justice ... and the jury came back with a not guilty verdict. I couldn't be happier.
He said he had no plans to return to cricket. His reputation had been "scorched".
He was pleased for his father Lance and mother Sue.
"They can hold their heads high in New Zealand."
What would you say to Brendon McCullum, he was asked?
There was a long pause before he said "why".
After walking to court alone each day since October 5, Cairns can now return to his wife, Mel, and their two children in Canberra.
However, he could now face a third court battle. Millionaire businessman Lalit Modi is expected to press ahead with a civil claim to overturn a 2012 High Court judgment in favour of Cairns.
Freelance cricket writer Lizzy Ammon talks to Radio Sport Night Trains host Mark Watson about the Chris Cairns verdict.
Modi, who publicly accused Cairns of match-fixing in 2010, was successfully sued by the cricketer for libel and ordered to pay damages of £90,000. The former Indian Premier League boss also had to pay Cairns' legal bill of more than £1 million.
Early this morning, through his lawyer, Modi released a statement saying: "I am aware of the verdict at Southwark Crown Court. As you know I am limited in what I can say as I am restricted by the injunction put in place following the 2012 libel trial. I will consider how this affects my own civil claim against Mr Cairns in due course."
It was the sworn statement of Cairns in the libel case that he "never, ever cheated" at cricket that led to the perjury charge.
The Herald's Jared Savage talks to Radio Sport's Night Train host Mark Watson following the Chris Cairns not guilty verdict.
Modi's legal team will now seek to appeal against the 2012 judgment because the perjury trial heard new witnesses unavailable at the time of the libel hearing, including Lou Vincent and Brendon McCullum.
The Herald understands both are co-operating with Modi's legal team. Civil cases have a lower threshold of proof to be met "on the balance of probabilities".
When asked about Modi outside court, Cairns replied: "I think I'll think about Mr Modi next week."
The not guilty verdicts in the criminal case mean the majority of the jurors did not believe Cairns was involved in match-fixing, despite the evidence of Vincent, his ex-wife Ellie Riley and McCullum.
In summing up, Justice Nigel Sweeney said the jury had to believe at least two of them to convict Cairns - one was not enough - and gave a strong warning to be "particularly cautious" about the evidence of Vincent.
UK's Daily Telegraph cricket writer Nick Hoult talks to Radio Sport's Night Train host Mark Watson about the Chris Cairns not guilty verdict.
This was because the 36-year-old was never investigated, let alone charged, for the match-fixing and bribery crimes he confessed to.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) has issued the following statement in relation to today's developments in the criminal proceedings in London.
"The ICC notes the decision of the jury finding Mr Chris Cairns not guilty and confirms its utmost respect for the process that has been followed.
"The ICC and its ACU will continue to work closely with and provide all possible support to players in order that the fight against corruption can be tackled effectively and collectively."
The ICC will not make any further comment on this matter.
- by Jared Savage in London
- NZ Herald
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