Billericay nursery manager Emma Panting walks free from court

Emma Panting
Image caption Emma Panting leaving Basildon Magistrates' Court after an earlier hearing when she denied all charges

The co-owner of a nursery in Essex charged with child cruelty has walked free on the opening day of her trial after the prosecution case collapsed.

Emma Panting, 50, of Wickford, who owned Abacus Day Nursery in Billericay, had denied assault and a racially aggravated public order offence.

Judge John Lodge at Basildon Crown Court dismissed the charges.

Her impeccable character remained intact and her excellent reputation was now restored, the judge told her.

However, her business had closed due to her character being tarnished by the allegations, he added.

An investigation was carried out into the treatment of children at the nursery but no evidence of cruelty was found, the court was told.

The judge said she was a woman of "totally impeccable character" and the accusations against her had left her reputation in tatters.

Her lawyers said in a statement: "Her acquittal is a vindication of her strenuous denials of any wrongdoing."

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