A mother of four has spoken of her relief at being cleared of assaulting a neighbour during a row over a lost football.
Petite Susannah Marmot, 42, endured a ten-month ordeal following a scuffle with stocky George Louka outside her home in Edgware, north west London.
She was accused of actual bodily harm after Mr Louka fell and cut his head, requiring ten stitches, as she tried to retrieve her son’s ball.
Dustman Mr Louka was described in court as an “Alf Garnett” figure who regularly shouted abuse at neighbours and called police to make complaints.
A jury at the Old Bailey took just half an hour to clear Mrs Marmot, a member of Edgware Adath Yisroel Congregation, at the end of a three-day trial last week which cost taxpayers more than £100,000.
Mrs Marmot, who once wrote for the JC under her maiden name of Susannah Cusworth, was supported by neighbours and colleagues, with more than 40 people — including former JC editor Ned Temko — writing character references.
The judge, Recorder Rosamund Horwood-Smart, attacked the Crown Prosecution Service’s decision to proceed with the case, saying it had “failed lamentably”. She ordered the CPS to pay the £14,600 cost of Mrs Marmot’s defence.
But the CPS said this week it stood by the decision to prosecute Mrs Marmot for what it believed was a “deliberate and intended attack”, and is seeking advice on whether to appeal the judge’s order of costs.
At preliminary hearings, two judges had urged the CPS to drop the case.
Mrs Marmot, who is 5ft 2in tall and weighs 8st, said: “It’s been such an ordeal. It’s impacted on so many things in our lives. The CPS had not done their homework, that was clear.
“I would have had to pay the cost of defending myself. We were already worrying about paying for the boys’ barmitzvahs. It would have been crippling.”
During the incident in October last year, Mrs Marmot had gone to ask her neighbour to return a football after it landed in his front garden.
Standing in the hallway of Mr Louka’s house, Mrs Marmot, who cares for two of her children who have special needs, asked for the ball.
“It became very protracted,” she said. “I moved forwards and said ‘tell me where the ball is’. He grabbed hold of me in a bear-hug. That’s the point at which it became really frightening. I told him to let me go. I was using my arm to push his face back. It was most unpleasant. He shouted ‘go on, get out’ and was pushing me as hard as he could from behind.
“I was scared I’d hit the door and was trying to slow myself down. We got to the door and we both shot out on to the driveway like a cork out of a bottle.
“He was still holding me and I could not get away. I had finger-mark bruising on my arms afterwards. He was trying to take a swing at me with his arm.
“As I tried to get away, he leapt on me. There was an almighty thud on my back as I hit the doorstep.”
A neighbour told her that a passer-by had called the police, thinking they had witnessed a domestic incident.
When officers arrived she told them she wanted to make a complaint against Mr Louka but after speaking to him, one of them told her she was under arrest.
Mrs Marmot said: “The policeman came back to the car and said ‘Sorry, I’m going to have to arrest you.’ I was enormously shocked.”
At the station she had her fingerprints, DNA and picture taken, before spending seven hours alone in a cell.
“It was a horrible experience, most unpleasant. It was in my mind that they would find out the real story and I would go home and that would be it.”
A CPS spokeswoman said: “The CPS carefully considered the evidence and concluded that there was sufficient evidence to authorise a charge and that it was in the public interest to do so, owing to the severity of the injury.
“The prosecution case was that it was a deliberate and intended attac. However, the CPS accepts the verdict of the jury.”