Disgraced ex Co-op boss fined for drug possession

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THE downfall of disgraced Co-operative Bank boss Paul Flowers was complete last night after the Bradford church minister dubbed ‘the Crystal Methodist’ appeared in court to admit three counts of drug possession.

Flowers, 63, pleaded guilty to two counts of possession of class A drugs, cocaine and crystal meth, and one count of possession of the class C drug ketamine during a hearing at Leeds Magistrates’ Court yesterday.

Paul Flowers leaves Leeds Magistrates Court. Picture by Simon Hulme

Paul Flowers leaves Leeds Magistrates Court. Picture by Simon Hulme

The charges stemmed from secret video footage which showed him handing over £300 in cash for the drugs in November last year.

District Judge David Kitson was told Flowers used cocaine for about 18 months to cope with stress and looking after his terminally ill mother but had little experience of the other two drugs.

The judge fined Flowers £200 for each of the offences relating to the Class A drugs but ordered no separate penalty for the charge involving ketamine. He ordered him to pay £125 in prosecution costs and a victim surcharge.

Flowers, who stepped down from the Co-op Bank after three years as chairman, said nothing as he left court and fought his way through a barrage of cameras with the help of three minders. He arrived before the court building opened and had to endure five minutes of flash photography as he waited on the pavement, repeating his claim that waiting reporters were “vultures”.

He became embroiled in claims of illegal drug use and inappropriate expenses payments, which saw him suspended by the Methodist Church and the Labour Party, after leaving the Co-op last year.

He quit as a Bradford councillor and cabinet member in 2011 after “inappropriate but not illegal” adult material was found on his council computer when he handed it in for repair, though the authority cited work and family pressures as the reason for his departure at the time.

Flowers stood in front of the dock in court yesterday for the 10 minute long hearing and answered clearly as the clerk asked him if he understood the charges and then confirmed his personal details. Asked to plead, he just said “guilty” once.

Claire Stevens, prosecuting, said the footage obtained by The Mail on Sunday showed the defendant counting out £300 in £20 notes as he sat in the car. He then handed this cash to another person in the car.

The prosecutor explained to the district judge how Flowers was interviewed three times by police and he admitted to the officers it was him in the video footage.

Ms Stevens said: “He said he had been a cocaine user for the past 18 months. He cited stress and the care of his terminally ill mother as reasons for his drug use.

“As a former chairman of Lifeline, the national drugs charity, he said he was aware of the effects of cocaine and this was a drug used to keep himself going.”

She said Flowers told officers that another man he thought was a friend “sold his story to The Mail on Sunday for greed”.

The court heard how Flowers left his home in Bradford on November 9 and picked up a man called Stuart Davies before heading for Leeds.

Ms Stevens said: “They drove to Leeds and collected a third man. £300 was handed to him and the defendant was given five grammes of cocaine, a small amount of crystal meth and a small amount of ketamine.”