Dustin Lance Black, 49, was accused grabbing Teddy Edwardes by the wrist and spilling her drink during the incident at the Freedom nightclub in Soho onAugust 18 last year.
However District Judge Louisa Cieciora stopped the trial at Westminstermagistrates court after the prosecution case, and in an excoriating judgmentshe found Ms Edwardes had told lies, shattered her credibility with socialmedia posts, and been evasive while giving evidence.
“I accept Ms Edwardes provided an account in which she confirmed Mr Black grabbed her wrist”, she said. “However the inconsistencies and weaknesses in her evidence go beyond simple matters of credibility and reliability to be determined at the end of theevidence. They are fundamental to the case.
“For that reason, I consider the prosecution evidence taken at its highest is such that…I couldn’t properly convict Mr Black of the charge.”
Daley accompanied Black to court and sat patiently outside the hearing roomalone for more than six hours, in anticipation of being called as a defencewitness. But his evidence was not needed after a disastrous spell giving evidence by MsEdwardes.
The couple shared an embrace moments after Black was released by the judge.
In a statement, the screenwriter said after his acquittal: "I am pleased that the judge saw the truth today and ruled in my favour. As the evidence has proven, and I have always maintained, I am completely innocent, and in fact was the victim in this case of a serious assault. I am relieved this unfortunate matter is now over."
Ms Edwardes was confronted in court by her own social output, includingcracking jokes about the incident, giving varying descriptions of the allegedassault, and referring to “pesky CCTV” at the heart of the case.
The collapse of the case puts the spotlight on the Crown Prosecution Service’sdecision to prosecute Black at all, especially as he had been assaulted himselfby Ms Edwardes during the same incident.
Black and Daley were on a rare date night when they ended up in Freedom, andafter the diver received unwanted attention from two fans they were invited tojoin Ms Edwardes’ table she was sharing with Love Island star Amber Gill.
“Essentially it’s an altercation in a nightclub”, said prosecutor Adrita Ahmed.
“The Crown’s case is the defendant grabbed Ms Edwardes’ wrist and twisted it, and the drink has gone over her. “Ms Edwardes has retaliated”, she added, revealing that the TV presenterreceived a caution in February over the incident for “going too far inself-defence”.
Giving evidence from behind a screen, Ms Edwardes said she did not know Tom Daley but offered to buy him a drink. The athlete said yes and added that his husband would want one as well, she said. The court heard Ms Edwardes, Ms Gill, and friends then joined Daley and Blackin a booth.
At one point, she asked security to move another man from the area where they were sitting because he was making Ms Gill feel uncomfortable, and she noticed Black "didn't seem to be very happy with me".
A police video later revealed that Black believed Ms Edwardes had ejected theman because he was not a celebrity and she “didn’t want the non-famous person there”. An altercation later broke out when Black was "shouting at me that I hadmade him feel uncomfortable since I got there", said Ms Edwardes.
"I think he said he felt humiliated", she said. "I think I saidI'm sorry, I didn't mean to make you feel like that."
Black, however, countered that Ms Edwardes, a BBC3 presenter and social media influencer had been the aggressive one, and also appeared to be drunk. She claimed: "I had a drink in my hand, and he grabbed my wrist andtwisted it round so my drink would go all over me."
Black insisted in his police interview that he had never touched her wrist, andthe drink was spilled when he reached out to take away her glass, believing she had drunk enough. Black, a US filmmaker with Oscar-winning screenplay Milk in his back catalogue, argued through his lawyer that the CCTV did not show him grabbing her wrist, while her evidence had been inconsistent.
“What the defence would say you can see on the CCTV is, immediately from the very beginning, Mr Black is trying to walk away”, said Helena Duong,representing Black.
“She turns to him and appears to reach out.
“There’s an exchange between them, in which she continues to be aggressive and shouting at him and he reacts to that.
“She makes a movement, gesticulating with her arms, which causes Mr Black to reach for the glass.”
Under cross-examination, Ms Edwardes was quizzed about her social media output in which she branded Black a "d***head" and said he "pretty muchunprovoked threw an entire drink over me".
She added to her followers: "Tell me why he is crying outside saying itwas a targeted attack, saying he is traumatised."
In some of her online content, Ms Edwardes characterised the punch she threw as a "tap", she referred to "pesky CCTV" , and admitted makingrepeated jokes about the incident.
Ms Duong suggested to Ms Edwardes: "What you did was to effectivelyexaggerate and add to what you say Mr Black did."
She also conceded she may have "come across as aggressive" towardsthe end of the confrontation with Black.
But she denied performing a "chest pump" in the seconds before thedrink was spilled.
In her application for the case to be dismissed, Ms Duong accused Ms Edwardes of repeatedly lying in court, to the police, and on social media where she suggested the drink had gone into her face rather than on the floor.
“When faced with such unreliable and inconsistent evidence that flies in theface of the evidence you have seen, you could put a stop to this”, she told thejudge.
Black, who says he was left with post-concussion syndrome as a result of thepunch and lost £600,000 in earnings, was cleared by the judge of one charge of common assault.
In her ruling, the judge took aim at parts of Ms Edwardes' evidence when she had been quizzed about her social media statements that were inaccurate and untrue.
"I did not consider her explanations, which included that she was angry when she wrote some of the posts, or social media is not real life, or she was limited in the number of characters she could use, to be at all persuasive."