A judge has warned Merseyside is steps away "from anarchy" because of a culture of witness intimidation.
Judge Denis Clark alleged somebody had "got at" the witness
Judge Denis Clark was speaking after the victim of an alleged revenge baseball bat attack returned to court less than two hours after giving evidence to retract it.
The 40-year-old victim Kevin Carroll told the jury he had been held by Thomas Robinson, the son of his former partner, and beaten by another man.
But after lunch he came back and gave police a statement saying that he could not be 100% certain.
It echoed Home Secretary David Blunkett's remarks on Tuesday that jury "nobbling" in Merseyside was so common it may be worth having trials which were only heard by judges in future.
Judge Clark said: "I get the feeling there is a considerable number of people in this area who are side-stepping the process of justice, leapfrogging trial by jury and deciding things among themselves.
"This is just a few steps away from a state of anarchy."
When asked by the judge who had "got at him" over the lunch break, Mr Carroll replied: "No-one."
Judge Clark directed the jury to return a not guilty verdict on Mr Robinson, who was discharged.
Mr Carroll had previously told the court that he had been threatened over giving evidence.
The judge added: "He tells us he has been got at and threatened. It is happening with alarming frequency on Merseyside.
"Something has happened over lunch. I will not be able to get to the bottom of what has caused him to retract his statement.
"It is a sad day for justice. This is not an isolated incident. It is happening time and time again, people not coming to court or coming and making retraction statements."