Singer Amy Winehouse expressed her relief today after she was cleared of punching a dancer in the face at a charity ball.
Burlesque dancer Sherene Flash claimed the 25-year-old hit her forcefully in the right eye after she asked the singer for a photograph.
Miss Flash alleged Winehouse thumped her backstage at the Prince’s Trust Ball in Berkeley Square, central London, where they were both performing.
But District Judge Timothy Workman, sitting at City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London, today dismissed the common assault charge against Winehouse.
Delivering his verdict, the judge said: “Weighing the evidence of Miss Flash against all the other eye witnesses called for both the prosecution and the defence, I cannot be sure this was not an accident.”
Winehouse, dressed in a knee-length black skirt, grey jacket and white shirt, looked confused as the verdict was read out and shrugged her shoulders.
The star, who fanned herself with a notepad throughout the hearing, did not leave the dock until her solicitor appeared to clarify the verdict.
As she left the courtroom, she told reporters: “I’m relieved. I’m going home.”
Winehouse, whose album Back to Black has sold more than 5.5 million copies worldwide, was met at court by a frenzied scrum of photographers and cameramen.
The singer yesterday told the court she felt intimidated and scared by the drunken Miss Flash when she leaned over and put her arm around her while backstage at the event.
She denied punching Miss Flash in the face but said: “I pushed her up, like away. I wanted her away from me. It was more like an indication of ’Leave me alone, I’m scared of you’.
“I meant to just get her away from me. I was scared. I thought ’People are mad these days, people are just rude and mad, or people can’t handle their drink’.”
She said: “I didn’t know what she was doing. She lunged at me and put her arm around me. She was just drunk.
“I think it was just intimidating. Suddenly out of nowhere she’s got her arm round me, her face next to mine, and there’s a camera in front of me.
“I think she was being overly friendly but that was intimidating. I was scared. I’m not Mickey Mouse, I’m a human being.”
Winehouse said Miss Flash towered over her as she was two stone underweight at the time and “five foot two and a half, or five foot three”, adding: “My hair does make a difference.”
The singer’s lawyer, Patrick Gibbs, said Miss Flash had suffered nothing more than hurt feelings.
He said: “The main injury here was probably to Miss Flash’s pride. Maybe she had been made to look silly in front of friends and colleagues.”
Summing up the evidence, the judge said all but two witnesses in the trial were drunk at the time of the incident.
He said: “Whilst I accept that all the witnesses have endeavoured to give an accurate account of the events, all but two of them were under the influence of alcohol to varying degrees.”
The judge said the medical evidence presented by the prosecution did not show “the sort of injury that often occurs when there is a forceful punch to the eye”.
Prosecutor Lyall Thompson told the two-day trial Winehouse had instigated a “deliberate assault” on Miss Flash.
The dancer said she had approached Winehouse’s dressing room at around midnight with friend Kieran Connolly in the hope of getting a picture with the star.
Miss Flash, who admitted being tipsy, said she ushered Mr Connolly into the photograph when suddenly Winehouse struck out at her, leaving her crying, in shock and unable to open her right eye.
But none of the other witnesses giving evidence said they saw Winehouse throw the punch.
After today’s hearing, Winehouse was ushered away from court to a car by her father Mitch and personal minders through the media pack waiting outside.
Outside court, a spokesman for the singer said: “Amy would like to thank her family, friends and legal team for their support during this difficult time.
“She’s always maintained her innocence and is very happy to move on with her life and put the episode behind her.”
Winehouse recently returned to the UK following an extended break in St Lucia.
The singer was divorced from her estranged husband, Blake Fielder-Civil, earlier this month.
Despite the separation, Winehouse was referred to throughout the trial by her counsel as Amy Jade Civil.