The case against a woman accused of stealing tens of thousands of pounds from one of the country’s largest synagogues has collapsed after the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to pursue it.
The former accountant of West London Synagogue, Anne Allen, had been due to stand trial at the Old Bailey on Wednesday after a two-year investigation.
But she was formally acquitted when the CPS said it would offer no evidence, following a defence application to dismiss the case.
Mrs Allen had originally faced allegations of theft amounting to more than £600,000 over an eight-year period.
But her lawyers say that amended charges had reduced the sum involved to £34,000.
West London Synagogue, which learned of the CPS intention to pull out of the case only last Friday, is now looking at alternative legal action.
Simon Myers, the synagogue’s executive director, said: “While obviously we are disappointed by the CPS decision — over which we have had no say — this does not stop us taking civil action, through which we fully intend to recover our losses.”
Mrs Allen’s representative, Aman Uppal of IBB solicitors, said that she was “both relieved and vindicated” after the case was dismissed.
His client had “always maintained her innocence throughout these proceedings and has denied stealing any money from the West London Synagogue”.
He said the case had been based on the “findings of a witness, who, the CPS eventually conceded, was unreliable in his analysis of the synagogue’s accounting records”.
It was “significant to note that the CPS initially based their entire case on this witness and alleged the theft of an amount in excess of £600,000.
“Later, the charges against Mrs Allen were altered to reflect the theft of £34,000. The case wavered throughout the proceedings. Finally, the CPS offered no evidence against Mrs Allen.”
She now wished to “move on with her life”, he said.
A CPS spokesman explained that it had taken the decision after “considering several issues raised by the defence before the trial, including the accuracy of evidence given by a key prosecution witness and the availability and reliability of documentary and other evidence”.
The prosecution service concluded that “it was likely the court would rule that a fair trial was not possible”.
City of London Police, who investigated the case, said they could not comment on a CPS decision.
Mrs Allen was dismissed by West London after the discovery in May 2010 of “possible financial irregularities… which appear to go back several years”, members were told two years ago by the synagogue’s then chairman.
According to recent synagogue accounts, the losses attributed to the alleged irregularities ran to £144,000 in 2009 and £157,000 in 2010.
The UK’s oldest Reform congregation numbers more than 1,500 members, including some of the country’s most prominent Jewish businessmen such as Lloyd Dorfman and Sir Ronald Cohen.