But the 40-year-old is angry ' />

Liquor store owner Virender Singh says he'll be back behind the counter today, and his hockey stick is up for sale.

But the 40-year-old is angry with police for putting him and his family through six months of hell by charging him over a fracas with two teenagers outside his store.

"I was so angry with the police. I'm a good citizen, I've been here 22 years, living locally and never broken any law. I don't know why they charged me for defending myself," he told the Herald last night.

"Everyone was surprised when I got charged. I'm not that kind of person to go out hitting someone without reason. Someone attacked me, I defended myself and I got charged.

"It was painful for me and a waste of public money."

Prosecutors said Mr Singh used excessive force against the two teens after he was stabbed following an altercation outside his Gilbert Road discount liquor store in Otara last September.

He was accused of striking one with a hockey stick as he lay on the ground with another man sitting on top of him, and of striking another while he was trying to aid the injured man.

But Justices of the Peace Mark Sinclair and Brian Cullen yesterday dismissed the charges after a depositions hearing at Manukau District Court.

They said the evidence was conflicting and contradictory.

The past six months had been a stressful time for the Sikh man and his family as they worried about what would happen if he was jailed.

He had prepared himself to spend time behind bars, and said only the support of his lawyer, Greg King, gave him the confidence to believe the charges would be successfully defended.

The JPs' decision was not only a victory for him, but a "victory for the public", he said.

"This decision has restored my belief in the justice system. But I don't trust the police now."

News of Mr Singh's court victory sparked a street party in Otara.

A crowd spent the afternoon outside Gilbert Road Discount Liquor playing cricket. Supporters tooted their car horns as they passed.

Mr Singh was flooded with calls and text messages from well-wishers.

"It is not just this community that have said they are happy, it is people all over New Zealand."

Mr Singh's wife, Gagandeep Kaur, said "it was like wonderland" when she heard her husband was a free man.

She did not feel any safer after the decision, but it was a minor victory for the family.

Mr Singh said he would put his hockey stick up for auction and give the proceeds to charity. A neighbour of 12 years, known as Lynn, said she was "thrilled to bits" that Mr Singh had been relieved of having to stand trial.

"I felt sorry for him, because he is such a great guy, so popular in this area. He is out there on weekends, playing cricket with the kids. That side of him was not seen in court."

Mr Singh is expected to be back in his store today - for the first time since the attack.

Asked whether he would defend himself again, Mr Singh replied: "I would have to think about that, but I'd definitely have to defend myself if something happened.

"But I'm not expecting it to happen again. I'm sure it was a one-off attack."

Mr Singh's neighbour Tangi Ahsin, who helped in the liquor store while Mr Singh was in court, said:

"It is such a relief. I will be glad to see his smiling face behind the counter again tomorrow."

SELF-DEFENCE CASES
February: Farmer David Allen cleared of murder and manslaughter after shooting Rangi Sam Collier, who came to the remote Eastern Bay of Plenty forestry block that Mr Allen managed to confront him over a debt.

June 2007: Two JPs threw out the case against Auckland gunshop director Greg Carvell, who was charged with unlawful possession of a firearm after he shot an intruder in his Penrose gunshop.

April 2005: Judge Michael Lance directed a jury to find Kawakawa farmer Paul McIntyre not guilty of discharging a shotgun without reasonable cause in a manner likely to endanger the safety of any person, after he shot and injured an intruder he caught trying to steal his farm bike one night in October 2002.

- additional reporting Edward Gay