Villagers who turned detective to catch a tyre slasher are now furious because the case has been thrown out over blunders by police and prosecutors.
Vehicles in a rural North Yorkshire village were attacked for two years while local police were unable to catch the culprit.
It prompted residents in Carlton Miniott to set up surveillance cameras which, within a matter of days, caught the vandal on video.
The footage was handed to police.
However, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) failed to submit the evidence in time which meant the case has this week been thrown out at Harrogate Magistrates’ Court.
The court heard an officer, PC Steve Smallman, signed off a case summary but the paperwork was not completed.
Magistrate, Marion Simon said: “The bench has to make clear we are appalled at the way this case has been handled by the CPS and the police.”
After the hearing, John Sharphouse, the owner of the car seen damaged on the film footage, said: “I can’t really believe what I have just seen.
“They couldn’t have had clearer evidence, what do you have to do to see someone punished?”
Mr Richards, a mechanic, was charged with eight counts of criminal damage but the CPS withdrew seven and only proceeded with the one caught on CCTV.
He denied criminal damage, claiming it was a case of mistaken identity.
A spokesman for North Yorkshire Police said: “We’re sorry we let the villagers down in this case.
“We acknowledge the magistrate’s comments and we recognise that we should have done better.”