Traumatised soldier cleared of cocaine charge

Livingston Sheriff Court
Livingston Sheriff Court
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A TROUBLED ex-soldier who “self-medicated” with a legal drug to help numb the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder ended up in court – accused of being a cocaine dealer.

John Chambers, 34, found that mixing benzocaine with alcohol helped him deal with sleepless nights caused by his 12 years of military service.

He spent £100 a week buying small quantities of the chemical in powder form before, in a bid to save cash, he splashed out £1000 on a 10kg tub from China.

That was enough to last more than 19 years and sparked a police visit ten months later to query the bulk buy.

Drugs squad detectives then charged Chambers, from Livingston, with dealing in cocaine – even though they hadn’t found any of the Class A drug in his possession.

They came to the conclusion that only a drug dealer would have a reason to have so much benzocaine – a common ‘cutting agent’ used to bulk up cocaine supplies.

However, the prosecution collapsed on Tuesday after a police drugs expert admitted that Chambers could be telling the truth about his reason for possessing the drug.

Detective Constable Lisa Spencer gave evidence at Livingston Sheriff Court that benzocaine – used legitimately as a dental anaesthetic – did have a “numbing effect”.

She said: “I can understand, given his stated condition, why he would use benzocaine. I can’t state for certain that he wasn’t self-medicating.

“It’s reasonable, from what benzocaine costs when purchased in bulk, that you would get 10 kilos for £1000.

“You’d never expect to buy 10 kilos of a drug for £1000. If you did you’d be wondering if you were getting baking powder or something.”

Chambers had denied being concerned in the supply of a controlled drug and was formally found not guilty by Sheriff Susan Craig.

Outside court, he revealed he was now seeking other ways to tackle his PTSD.

He said: “I should never have been accused in the first place. There’s no way I’m a drug dealer.

“Thankfully, I’m now getting help from Combat Stress and Veteran’s First Point.”