Anger: Sergeant Bob Woodward was taken off front-line duty for nearly two years
A police officer told of his anger yesterday after being taken off front-line duty for a year and hauled before a court for defending himself against a suspect who he thought was about to headbutt him.
Sergeant Bob Woodward spoke out after the case against him collapsed at the start of his trial when it emerged the supposed victim would not appear - because he was on the run after skipping bail over a separate violent attack.
The officer, a married father of three with 30 years' unblemished service, retires in April but said the episode had soured his last year in the force.
Condemning the criminal justice system, he claimed his experience - the second time he has been wrongly accused of assaulting a drunken suspect - would make other officers think twice about confronting violent individuals.
Sergeant Woodward, 52, said Ashley Pearson had lashed out at him in July 2007 as they stood together in a custody suite at Cannock police station in Staffordshire, where Pearson had been taken after being arrested for an alleged breach of bail.
The 6ft 8in policeman said he blocked the blow and pushed his attacker on to a desk, chipping Pearson's front tooth.
Pearson did not make a formal complaint but Staffordshire Police launched an investigation following an anonymous tip-off. Details were passed on to the Crown Prosecution Service which decided to prosecute Sergeant Woodward.
He was taken off front line duties early last year when formally summonsed for assault and has since been doing other work or been on sick leave.
The officer has now been fully reinstated after the case against him collapsed at Birmingham Crown Court on Monday.
The sergeant, from Hednesford, Staffordshire, said yesterday: 'There is something wrong when police officers end up in the dock for doing their job while thugs are left free to laugh at the justice system. They were ludicrous prosecutions. When they told me I was being charged I could hardly believe my ears.
'I had to keep it secret from my 80-year-old mother or it would have worried her to death.'
Announcing the CPS would offer no evidence against Sergeant Woodward, Zaheer Afzal, prosecuting, told Judge Sean Morris on Monday: 'Regrettably our main witness is not here today, and we have not been able to find him.'
David Mason, defending, said he found it ' staggering' that the case had taken so long to get to court, telling the judge: 'The officer thought he was going to be headbutted and was using reasonable force to protect himself from a clearly drunk, violent and aggressive man.'