Bolton businessmen cleared of buying stolen railway cable as ‘pushy’ undercover police go too far with FOUR visits

Three Bolton businessmen accused of buying stolen railway cable have been cleared of all wrongdoing – after a judge said they were ‘worn down’ to break the law by pushy undercover police officers.

Paul Dawson and Gary Ogden, both 47 and 44-year-old Gary Young were among 17 suspects arrested during a police sting operation into scrap metal dealers, who officers suspected might be trading in stolen items.

But in a case of entrapment, it emerged two undercover officers posing as unscrupulous dealers had to visit the suspects’ business premisis four times before they managed to persuade them to buy what appeared to be stolen cable.

Mr Dawson had initially refused their offers and demanded identification but the cops – known as Nick and Tom – carried on repeatedly offering him dodgy items.

He eventually reluctantly agreed to take the cable only on condition the bogus vendors wouldn’t come back.

Soon after the operation in October 2012, Mr Dawson and his colleagues at Bolton-based PG metals in Greater Manchester were arrested and handcuffed during a string of coordinated 9am raids.

They were charged with a string of offences including concealing criminal property and if convicted they could have faced up to five years in jail.

But almost two years on at Bolton Crown Court the case against the three men was thrown out after Judge Timothy Stead condemned the officers for going too far in their pursuit of the three men.

He said: “It is simply not acceptable that the state, through its agents, should have its citizens lured into breaking the law and then set out to prosecute them.

“The reality of what the police did by going time and time again was to seek to wear down Mr Dawson’s resistance to a point where he would then do something that could be characterised as a criminal offence.”

The three men will also be awarded costs which are expected to met by the taxpayer.

It emerged 14 other suspects facing trial following the crackdown will have their cases reviewed following the judge’s criticisms.

After the case Mr Dawson said: “I feel a sense of relief now it’s over but this is still a blot against our name and now I wouldn’t trust any police officer as far as I could throw them.

“If anyone says ‘have you been arrested’ we will now have to say yes.

“Despite being cleared, the very fact we went to court is going to have an effect and if we had been convicted we would have had a criminal record for the rest of our lives.

“It’s over but it’s still in the back of my head. It makes you think that they could target us again and try something else. They’ve done it once, why not again – I’m very angry.”

Mr Ogden, whose mother died whilst he was awaiting trial, said he was left suicidal by the botched investigation.

“It’s been a nightmare, the police swooped down on the business and at all three of our houses at 9.30am and I heard some suspects had their front doors kicked in,” he said.

“None of us have a criminal records and then this happened.

“It seems the undercover cops came in to get a feeling with us and to build up a rapport. They would come in with stuff that we would buy every day but although we refused it, they tried to befriend us.

”We said we didn’t want it because it looked like railway cable but they have gone out of their way to force innocent people like us into buying it. It was blatant entrapment and we have been made to feel like criminals who could potentially have been locked up.”

Mr Ogden described how on the day of their arrest, around 20-30 officers swooped in along with a helicopter as the street was cordoned off.

“If we had any sort of conviction we would simply lose the business we’ve worked for and out livelihood,” he added.

“In this job you have to use your initiative and we would tell people to get lost and would not accept some stuff.  We took their ids and then kept saying we didn’t want it.

“We even refused stuff that was legitimate because it looked like railway cable even though there was no markings.

“We’ve previously always had a good relationship with the police, but this has been like a kick in the teeth. We had always been pro police and we’ve never had any problems before.

“I thought to myself some days, ‘this isn’t worth it’ and thought about getting a rope. I can’t trust the police now, and they are the ones we are supposed to be trusting.”

The court heard how undercover police officers first visited PG metals on September 26 2012 posing as scrap dealers with metal to sell.

Mr Dawson asked to see identification and refused to buy the aluminium metal cable he was offered, which was legitimate, but looked similar to railway cable.

The officers then went back to PG metals again on October 9 2012 and again Mr Dawson demanded to see identification.

He told the officers he was not supposed to buy burnt wire and if he was offered it he should report it to police as the wire could be stolen cabling with its protective plastic sheath burnt off.

Officers called at the firm again on October 16 2012 — their third visit — and offered Mr Dawson railway cable.

He told them twice he could not take it and the officers asked how much he would pay for it if it was stripped.

They then returned later that day with the cable stripped of its identifying protective sheath and Mr Dawson bought it.

When he was asked if he would take any more he told the undercover officers he would prefer not to have it.

Mr Dawson and Mr Ogden both of Great Lever, near Bolton were both accused attempting to handle stolen railway cable and concealing criminal property.

Mr Young, from Breightmet, Bolton was accused of two charges of attempted handling of stolen property.

All three have now been cleared of all charges and the CPS barrister, Robert Elias, told the court he would be immediately reviewing all forthcoming cases linked with the operation, which was run by British Transport Police and Greater Manchester Police.

Mr Elias told the court: “The good thing about age is it allows you to gain perspective, the proper view is to offer no evidence against these three defendants on all counts, for reasons that are pretty obvious.”

Operation Rhonda saw officers from both forces targeting scrap metal dealers across Greater Manchester who were believed to be involved in criminal activity.

The charges range from attempting to receive stolen goods to helping others in the commission of a criminal offence.

Story courtesy of Cavendish Press

Image courtesy of Rob, with thanks

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