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Customs officer cleared by jurors
A customs and excise officer has been cleared of perverting the course of justice over claims he conspired with criminals to reduce their prison sentences.
A jury at Kingston Crown Court took an hour to find Paul Cook, 60, not guilty of perverting the course of public justice between 1993 and 1995 over the claims relating to "major criminals" John Haase and his nephew Paul Bennett.
Haase and Bennett were jailed for 18 years for drug smuggling but had their sentences cut by 13 years in 1995 after Cook allegedly told the judge they were valuable informants.
In fact the two men were merely posing as "supergrasses" while planting caches of guns and drugs to gain credit for the information, the jury heard.
The jury is still deliberating a second count, of misconduct in a public office between 1993 and 2001.
Earlier, before the jury began its deliberations, Mr Justice MacKay said: "This is a serious matter. It is an offence which does nothing more or less than undermining the confidence we are all likely to feel in the criminal justice system.
"If you are sure that this charge of perverting the course of public justice is proved, it is your duty to convict on count one whatever sympathy you may have for him.
"If you think it was, or may have been the case, that he was naive or taken for a ride, that would mean he is entitled to a verdict of not guilty."