Music venue boss cleared of attacking disabled pensioner
PUBLISHED: 15:35 21 August 2008 | UPDATED: 15:19 07 September 2010
THE manager of a classical music venue in Highgate has been cleared of assaulting a disabled pensioner during a recital of Beethoven piano sonatas. The ruling is a welcome reprieve for the Red Hedgehog in Archway Road, which hosts performances by world-re
THE manager of a classical music venue in Highgate has been cleared of assaulting a disabled pensioner during a recital of Beethoven piano sonatas.
The ruling is a welcome reprieve for the Red Hedgehog in Archway Road, which hosts performances by world-renowned classical musicians.
The cash-strapped venue had a fire in April and could have gone out of business had Clare Fischer, 57, been found guilty by Highgate Magistrates' Court.
Artist Jackie Kushner, 64, of Parliament Hill, suffered a sprained wrist and a bruised head on the night of May 9 - injuries she claimed to have sustained when pushed over by Ms Fischer.
She arrived late with a friend for a performance by pianist James Lisney, which she said she thought was an informal jazz concert, the court heard.
"There was a huge banging on the door outside during the concert and I jumped out of my skin," said Ms Fischer.
"I went outside and motioned for her to be quiet but she was screaming her head off at me."
Ms Fischer asked the pair to come back when the classical music had finished and about 9pm beckoned Ms Kushner back into the foyer. But Ms Kushner began shouting and wanting her money back, magistrates heard.
"She was just at the top of her tantrum," said Ms Fischer.
"I had my back against the inner door and she reached around my back to try to get at the door handle with her right hand.
"I was absolutely frantic because the music was playing and all this rumpus was going on. I pushed her arm off the door and off of me.
"It was the most traumatic moment of my life. She did a pratfall backwards and took six or seven steps and ended up on the pavement.
"Of course I didn't mean her to fall and, I know it's an awful thing to say, but the first thing I thought was, 'Thank God she's out.'"
Defending, Sam Skinner said Ms Kushner had intimidated the manager.
"Ms Fischer put up her arm to ward you off. You were so aggressive and so rowdy that the defendant thought you were going to shove past her into the concert."
Ms Kushner denied touching the manager. She said Ms Fischer repeatedly told her in a high- pitched voice to go away.
"She was on her hands and knees and looking up to the sky, and saying, 'I beg you'," she said.
"I wasn't angry, I was incredulous. It was bizarre."
During the hearing, both women performed dramatic and shrill impersonations of each other at the witness stand.
Ms Fischer denied ever getting down on her hands and knees, demonstrating to the court how ridiculous it would have been by getting down on all fours in front of the magistrates.
Concluding the trial, magistrates' chairwoman Lisa Bogush said to Ms Fischer: "We find you not guilty of this assault.
"We did not find Ms Kushner to be a credible witness.
"Her belief that she was going to a jazz concert was not substantiated. We find her version that Ms Fischer was loud and shrieking was most improbable.
"We do not accept that the defendant pushed Ms Kushner with two hands and with such force that it caused her to fall backwards.
"It was a restraining push that was reasonable."
After the trial, Ms Fischer said she was relieved at the ruling but the whole process had been extremely stressful.
"If I had been found guilty it would have meant the end of the Red Hedgehog," she said.
"I have hardly slept all week.
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