Daily Mail

10 court dates, 18 months and £10,000 costs ... for £40 fine

- By James Tozer

A BRIEF bust-up between neighbours escalated into a ‘tortuous’ legal saga costing taxpayers £10,000 – before the assailant was fined just £40.

Claudia Carrington, who has a history of drink-related violence, faced up to five years in jail after she swung a bag containing a bottle of vodka at Jean Clewes, 61, and 51-year-old Alison Edge.

But although a trial date was set four times and the victims turned up to testify about their ordeals, each court hearing was adjourned due to missing evidence, legal issues or Carrington turning up late.

This week, after a protracted battle spanning ten court appearance­s over more than 18 months, prosecurin­gton tors finally agreed to accept the 22year-old’s original version of events and dropped two charges of assault occasionin­g actual bodily harm against her.

Instead, Carrington admitted the lesser charges of common assault and received a nine-month community order in addition to the £40 fine. She will have to pay £180 costs – but the rest of the legal bill will be met by the taxpayer.

The farcical saga comes at a time when the courts have been grappling with a near-record backlog of cases, exacerbate­d by the Covid pandemic and strike action.

It began in July 2021 after Carwas arrested over the brief clash as she returned to her former home in Oldham following a shopping trip.

Magistrate­s at Tameside court were told she was seen ‘entering into an altercatio­n’ with her neighbours, who were in the front garden.

‘She [Carrington] has a shopping bag containing a bottle of vodka,’ said Gareth Hughes, prosecutin­g. ‘She has swung that and it makes contact with one of the victims.’

As tempers flared, Carrington also raised her hands and pushed their arms away, Mr Hughes added. She was arrested, charged and pleaded not guilty – ultimately attending ten court hearings, although the case was listed a total of 16 times with lawyers and JPs present.

Mr Hughes told this week’s hearing that the Crown Prosecutio­n Service was now accepting the guilty plea to common assault which Carrington had previously offered.

Her solicitor, James Riley, said the case had faced a ‘tortuous passage through the courts’. He insisted that his client had been trying to recover her mobile phone, which had dropped out of the bag and been picked up by one of the neighbours. ‘It did amount to an assault, but only just,’ Mr Riley added.

Carrington had previous conviction­s for two common assaults and one for an offence of violence in 2014, the court was told. Sentencing her, Alex Walker told her that she needed to work with the probation service – but that neither compensati­on nor restrainin­g orders were required.

‘Tortuous court case’

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