Disgraced minister Flowers will now face church probe after drugs conviction

Paul Flowers is greeted by a media scrum as he arrives at court yesterday

Paul Flowers is greeted by a media scrum as he arrives at court yesterday

First published in News Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Photograph of the Author by , T&A Reporter

Shamed former Co-op bank boss and Methodist minister Paul Flowers will now face a probe by Church leaders after he was convicted of possessing drugs, including cocaine, crystal meth and ketamine.

The 63-year-old former Bradford councillor pleaded guilty to all three charges against him when he appeared before Leeds magistrates yesterday after he arrived at court escorted by three burly minders.

The court was told Flowers, dubbed the Crystal Methodist, took cocaine to cope with stress and looking after his terminally-ill mother.

District Judge David Kitson fined him a total of £400, and ordered him to pay £125 in prosecution costs and a victim surcharge.

After the case, a spokesman for the Methodist Church said that following the ending of legal proceedings, its own disciplinary investigation could now begin into the conduct of Flowers, who served as a minister in Bradford.

“Now that Paul Flowers has admitted guilt and been sentenced, our disciplinary process can move ahead,” said the Church spokesman.

“It is a confidential process so that all involved can speak freely, and it is independent of the Church leadership.

“We cannot give a deadline by which this work will be completed, but we would expect it to be before the summer.”

The spokesman also confirmed that despite his conviction, Flowers will continue to be paid half of his stipend, or wage, equating to £11,106 per year, and is still entitled to live in his rent-free Methodist manse in Hollingwood Drive, Great Horton.

The former minister for Wibsey, a preacher for more than 40 years, remains indefinitely suspended from the Bradford South Methodist Circuit, a sanction that will continue until any disciplinary proceedings are concluded.

In March, it emerged that Flowers had written to Church leaders seeking to retire from his ministerial post, but no decision on his future can be confirmed by the Ministerial Synod for West Yorkshire until the Methodist Conference in July.

The spokesman added that Flowers’ offer of resignation could be refused on the grounds that the disciplinary process should be completed before any such request is considered, but were unable to comment on what the potential punishments from any disciplinary action may be.

Councillor Geoff Reid (Lib Dem, Eccleshill), a retired Methodist minister, said the Church’s delay in starting its own investigation might surprise some people.

“How long it takes now is another matter,” he said. “We have to remember that from August, Paul is a retired minister. In a sense, once you retire, there’s not a lot that can happen. Events will just have to take their course.”

He added that yesterday’s sentencing would not have lowered the church’s reputation further, and that a scrupulous investigation should be the next step.

“Any damage that’s been done has already been done,” he said. “What the church needs to do now is implement its own procedures absolutely by the book.”

Flowers resigned from Bradford Council in 2011 after adult material was found on his computer, and he stepped down as the Co-op Bank’s chairman last year.

He later became embroiled in claims of illegal drug use and inappropriate expenses payments, and was 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.

Bradford Council leader David Green said he did not think the sentencing of Flowers would have any adverse effect on the city.

“He has pleaded guilty and has been sentenced appropriately by the court,” Coun Green said.

“I don’t think it is something that should damage Bradford, it is a personal issue for Mr Flowers, and not one for the city, or the Council.”

Flowers had arrived before the court building opened yesterday morning and was subjected to five minutes of flash photography as he waited on the pavement, repeating his claim that waiting reporters were “vultures”.

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 stemmed from secret video footage of him handing over £300 for drugs in November last year.

The court was told how Flowers was interviewed three times by police and he admitted it was him caught on film.

Claire Stevens, prosecuting, said Flowers had been a cocaine user for the past 18 months, citing stress and the care of his terminally-ill mother as reasons for his drug use.

Richard Wright QC, mitigating, said his client was “of exemplary character,” adding that the prosecution was only possible because of Flowers’ admissions to the police.

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