Crystal Methodist 'lost so much'

Disgraced former Co-operative Bank boss Paul Flowers took cocaine to cope with stress and looking after his terminally ill mother, a court was told after the church minister admitted drug possession.

Disgraced former Co-operative Bank boss Paul Flowers leaves Leeds Magistrates' Court
Disgraced former Co-operative Bank boss Paul Flowers leaves Leeds Magistrates' Court

Flowers, dubbed the Crystal Methodist, appeared before Leeds Magistrates' Court today where he 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.

The charges flowed from secret video footage of him which showed him handing over £300 in cash for the drugs in the West Yorkshire city in November last year.

District Judge David Kitson was told how Flowers had used cocaine for about 18 months but had little previous experience of the other two drugs.

Mr Kitson fined the 63-year-old minister £400 and ordered him to pay £125 in costs.

Flowers said nothing as he left court and angrily fought his way through a barrage of cameras with the help of three minders.

Earlier, 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".

Flowers, who stepped down as the Co-op Bank's chairman last year, later became embroiled in claims of illegal drug use and inappropriate expenses payments.

He was also suspended by the Methodist Church and the Labour Party.

The Co-op confirmed last year that it was seeking to recover contractual payments totalling £31,000 made to Flowers amid reports that he was also the subject of an inquiry into ''lavish'' expense claims.

Flowers stood in front of the dock in court this morning 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."

She said: "He said he had very little previous experience of crystal meth or ketamine."

The prosecutor said no drugs were found in Flowers's possession by investigating police. She said he was prosecuted on the basis of the admissions he made to officers.

Richard Wright QC, defending, said his client was "of exemplary character".

He said the prosecution was only possible because of Flowers's admissions to the police.

Mr Wright said: "He's not working. He's drawing income in terms of pensions."

He said this income was currently £510 a month but added that his client was also in possession of assets following the recent death of his mother.

"He is a man who's remorseful," the barrister said. "He has no relevant previous convictions, he's a man of exemplary character."

Mr Wright said Flowers was continuing to take steps to "deal with this issue".

He said his client shows "a determination to resolve this issue permanently".

And he added: "He has lost so much by the fact of his conviction."

District Judge Kitson fined Flowers's £200 for each of the offences relating to the Class A drugs but ordered no separate penalty for the charge involving the Class C ketamine.

He ordered him to pay £125 in prosecution costs and a victim surcharge.

Ms Stevens said Mr Davies was interviewed by police but was not charged with any offence.

Another man arrested as part of the inquiry, Gavin Woroniuk, also appeared at Leeds Magistrates' Court this morning in a separate hearing.

Woroniuk, 33, of Mitford Road, Leeds, is charged with four counts of offering to supply controlled drugs and another of possessing criminal property - £1,000 in cash.

He did not indicate a plea and Mr Kitson transferred his case to Leeds Crown Court. He was bailed to appear again on May 21.