A DISTRICT judge has attacked the Crown Prosecution Service for pursuing a 'crackers' court case involving a £7.49 damage claim against a retired army captain.

John Foster described the decision to prosecute former captain Timothy John Hallam as 'nonsense'.

Mr Hallam, 55, who has served 18 years in the army including tours in Bosnia and Kosovo, has indicated he will deny a charge of causing damage which would cost £7.49 to repair after he cut the top off a wooden fence post.

The district judge, sitting at Barnsley Magistrates' Court, said: "I cannot believe, even given the vagaries of the Crown Prosecution Service these days, that it wants to proceed with this case against a 55-year-old man of exemplary character.

"It's crackers. The CPS really needs to get some sense of what's important to the public.

"This is a dispute between neighbours. It was a fence post before he cut the top off it and it's still a fence post. The neighbour is £7.49 out of pocket. It's the height of nonsense."

Mr Hallam said the case was subject to a county court action as part of a long-running civil dispute with his neighbour over rights of access and encroachment.

Mr Hallam, of Thurgoland Bank, Thurgoland, said: "If I lose the case it could undermine a seriously expensive civil action. It could take my employment away, as well as leave me with a criminal record, but the principal is something I will live with long after all this is over and I want to be able to live comfortably with my conscience if I have nothing else in the world."

CPS solicitor Chantel Lowery-Green said it was impossible to prove whose land the fence post was on at this stage and it was felt Hallam would have to be prosecuted because of a chance of a similar incident in the future.

"A way out of this would have been to offer Capt Hallam the chance to be bound over to keep the peace," she said. "But I understand he will not accept a binding over because he says he was within his rights to cup the top off the post. We will have to list it for trial."

Mr Hallam was granted unconditional bail until the trial on September 12.