Ex-Det Sgt Paul Thompson asks watchdog to probe case
A police officer who admitted taking cocaine but was cleared of allegations he was masterminding a drug dealing ring is taking his case to the police watchdog.
Former Northumbria Police Det Sgt Paul Thompson admitted using small amounts of cocaine and accepts he should have been arrested for that.
But he said he believed a subsequent investigation and the fall-out was out of proportion to what he was actually convicted of.
"I started using cocaine," he said. "It was a huge mistake. I deserved to have been arrested. What I didn't deserve is to be portrayed as the head of an organised crime group flooding the North East with cocaine."
Mr Thompson, from County Durham, joined the police in 1991 and worked as an undercover officer.
"I had a track suit in my shed that I used to soak in a bucket of urine," he said. "I would wear that and had three weeks of [beard] growth. I'd look completely different, you wouldn't recognise me."
In 1997 Mr Thompson was co-ordinating a drugs bust in the Newcastle nightclub Legends, from inside the premises.
It was here that Mr Thompson, posing as a customer, first took cocaine.
"We went to the cubicle and he put up two lines of cocaine - one for him, one for me.
"He did his line but then he watched very carefully to ensure I did mine. At this stage I felt as though I was under test, under scrutiny."
Taking drugs was not "encouraged or expected, by any stretch of the imagination" but accepted if the alternative would "result in an assault", Mr Thompson said.
Ten years later he says, depressed by work pressures and his mother's sudden death, Mr Thompson "went and sought cocaine", asking his half-brother Brian Thompson to get it for him.
"One day I'm arresting someone at work for taking cocaine and then on my way home I'm going and buying my own cocaine," he said. "To me the two didn't cross over."
He called it "self medicating" at the time and said he did not want to accept he was crossing a line.
But Northumbria Police had mounted a major surveillance operation on Brian Thompson.
Although Paul Thompson maintains he had no idea where his half-brother was getting his drugs, the police had made a connection between Brian Thompson and two drug dealers - David and Stephen Wood.
In February 2011 they and Brian Thompson were charged in connection with the seizure of 4 kilos (9lbs) of cocaine and £160,000 in cash and later convicted.
Paul Thompson said it was at this point that police became convinced he was part of a drugs gang and he was arrested at work in Sunderland.
He was later charged with conspiracy to supply cocaine and conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office.
Mr Thompson's wife Susan was unaware he had been arrested until she was also arrested at home on suspicion of conspiracy to supply class A drugs, conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office and money laundering offences. She was bailed later.
After Mr Thompson was released on bail, and had owned up to his cocaine problem, he and his wife set about trying to disprove they were at the centre of a major drugs gang.
Mrs Thompson claims documents forming the prosecution case against them contained some inaccurate and selective information.
'Torn to shreds'
In a statement Northumbria Police said: "The public rightly expects the highest possible standards. Where we suspect those standards fall below the required level, we will take action."
In relation to the drugs investigation, they said Paul Thompson was a serving police officer who was convicted of possessing a Class A drug - which they described as entirely inappropriate in his job.
After a year awaiting trial and several weeks in court, the Thompsons were cleared of supplying cocaine.
Mr Thompson was fined £1,000 on three charges of possession of the drug for personal use.
At Newcastle Crown Court he was also found guilty of a misconduct charge relating to checks made on the Northumbria Police computer on the tenants of properties owned by him and his wife.
He was cleared of misconduct in public office in relation to accessing confidential police records to help criminals.
But the couple are taking a case to the police watchdog, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).
"All I can say is that I'm glad that the truth came out," Mr Thompson said. "The exact offences that I admitted were the exact offences for which I was convicted."
Despite being cleared of all charges Mrs Thompson is now unemployed after the adverse publicity meant she lost her job.
"I've been absolutely torn to shreds," she said. "You're not innocent until proven guilty - you're guilty until you can prove your innocence and it's not fair."
BBC Inside Out's film of Paul Thompson's story will be shown on BBC 1 on Monday, 22 October at 19:30 BST