A judge questioned why a father who grabbed an abusive teenager and made him apologise to younger children following a squabble was charged with kidnapping the youth.
Taxpayers said that costly hearings into Kevin Moore's case could have been avoided had the justice system shown "common sense".
Kevin Moore, 44, from Pearl Street, Saltburn, Cleveland, was relieved at the end of his four-month ordeal yesterday, saying he dreaded having such a serious charge hanging over him. Kidnap carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
He told the Northern Echo newspaper: "The implications of that word are horrifying.
"All I ever wanted was an apology for everyone.
"I admitted I got a bit over the top and irate, but I was not flying off the handle."
He admitted the much less serious charge of common assault and was given an 18-month conditional discharge and ordered to pay £250 compensation by Judge Peter Bowers at Teesside Crown Court.
The court heard the out-of-work contractor took the teenager to apologise to a group of children - including his two sons - for being abusive and aggressive in July.
He chased the 13-year-old and put him in his car before driving him the short distance to a Redcar church hall where the younger children were attending a dance class.
Both sets of children apologised after the row which had started over name-calling and throwing berries in the church grounds.
The teenager, who had not hit anyone, then returned to his friends, the court heard.
An adult called the police because they suspected the child was being abducted, and Moore was arrested.
At a hearing in August, Judge Bowers said after reading an outline of the case: "Can I be like Victor Meldrew and say, 'I don't believe it'?"
The judge asked the CPS to review the charge.
Two hearings later, Moore's plea to the less serious charge was deemed acceptable.
The judge said he would not order costs against Moore as "this was not what anyone would really call a kidnapping".
Fiona McEvoy, of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "This whole situation will have cost taxpayers a fortune at a time when they can least afford it.
"It sounds as though this shambles could have been avoided with a bit of common sense, and that's exactly what we need to see more of as the public are tired of seeing money frittered away as they struggle in the current economic climate."
A CPS chief said it will see if lessons can be learned, but insisted there was evidence to support the kidnap charge.
Gerry Wareham, Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS Cleveland, said: "Kevin Moore was charged with kidnapping as there was evidence that he took a 13-year-old boy into his car unlawfully and by force against his will.
"This case was brought to the attention of Cleveland Police by two adult members of the public who were concerned at the potentially serious nature of the incident
"Both witnessed the scene and one of them called the police when he found out that the boy, who seemed upset when being forced to get into the car, was not related to the defendant whose behaviour was described as aggressive.
"The defendant said that he reacted that way in relation to an earlier incident, for which the 13-year-old boy was not responsible.
"After a request from the judge that the CPS reconsider the level of charge, an offence of common assault was added to the indictment to which the defendant pleaded guilty.
"In light of this plea we considered whether to go ahead with the kidnapping charge or whether to ask for the charge to lie on file.
"This was discussed with the police, the victim and his family who accepted the CPS' decision that a plea to the lesser charge was acceptable.
"The defendant in interview accepted that members of the public who witnessed the scene thought that his actions were terrible.
"The prosecutor in this case made the decision based on the available evidence.
"It is important that we robustly prosecute to deter people from acting in an unlawful manner but understand the judge's concerns in this case.
"We have charging guidelines which seek to ensure we do this in an open, fair and consistent manner. I will look at this case to see whether there are any lessons we need to learn."