Escort paid corrupt police officer £19,000 to plant evidence on ex-boyfriend
A FEMALE escort who paid a corrupt police officer to plant a gun or drugs on an ex-boyfriend has avoided being jailed.
Claire Smethurst was so furious that assault charges against her former partner, Leroy Thomas, were being dropped that she agreed to detective constable Daniel Withnell’s suggestion that he arrange for evidence to be planted on Mr Thomas in return for a £30,000 payment, a court heard.
Judge Michael Henshell heard how Smethurst, of Hatherlow Court, Westhoughton, arranged to meet Withnell at her friend’s flat in Manchester on October 1 last year following texts and phone calls.
She knew him from a tanning salon that he owned in Bolton, the court heard.
Smethurst told Manchester Crown Court that she had been drinking heavily, agreed to his plan and said Withnell took £19,000 cash she had when he left the flat.
The 48-year-old claimed her drunkenness meant she was not aware of what she was doing, but Judge Henshell disagreed, stating: “Evidence in her texts seems to indicate that she was compos mentis — in full control of her senses.”
But the following morning she got cold feet about the scheme and texted Withnell several times to get her money back.
She also contacted John Hepke, another serving police officer, who was the former partner of a friend.
Smethurst gave him some details about what had happened and he reported the matter to his superiors.
Counter-corruption officers set up a meeting with Smethurst in a Manchester hotel on October 12.
She told them about Withnell and gave them her phone so they could access text messages.
In court she claimed she had been told she would not be prosecuted for her part in the plan to pervert the course of justice, but Judge Henshell rejected her claim.
Smethurst, who claims to count judges and barristers among her clients, pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice and Gerald Baxter, defending, said that since the incident she has stopped working as an escort.
The court was told that Withnell, aged 30, of Cranark Close, Heaton, did not intend to carry out the plan to plant evidence on Mr Thomas.
He has already pleaded guilty to two counts of misconduct in a public office and intending to pervert the course of justice.
Withnell, who has been sacked from his job, is now in custody and will be sentenced at a later date.
Yesterday Judge Henshell sentenced Smethurst to 15 months in prison, suspended for two years.
He told her that perverting the course of justice is “always a very grave offence” but that her criminality was mitigated by her behaviour afterwards, because it only lasted a short time and that the plan was initially Withnell’s, not hers.
Legal proceedings are now being taken to seize the £19,000 she paid to Withnell as proceeds of crime.