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- Basharat Ditta, 42, would feed information to crime lord Neil Scarbrough
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- Was given a three-year prison sentence at Liverpool Crown Court
By Wills Robinson
PUBLISHED: 13:15 EST, 1 November 2013 | UPDATED: 13:49 EST, 1 November 2013
A top defence lawyer who told a drugs Mr Big about a major police investigation, because he feared his secret drug addiction would be exposed, has been jailed for three years.
Basharat Ditta, 42, would feed sensitive intelligence to crime lord Neil Scarbrough about inquiries into his drug trafficking activities after he became compromised by his cocaine habit.
The solicitor, who was nicknamed ‘Bash’ and hailed by criminals as a ‘top brief’, was arrested at his home in 2011 following a police surveillance operation into Scarborough, who he had represented in a previous narcotics trial.
Feeding information: Basharat Ditta, left, tipped off crime lord Neil Scarborough, right, about a major investigation into his drug trafficking activities
Officers spotted Sarborough, 32, dropping off three bags of cocaine at the lawyer’s home in Blackburn, Lancashire, while he was out at a Law Society dinner with colleagues.
Inquiries revealed Ditta was a 'regular user' of the Class A drug after tests found traces of cocaine in his hair, on his wallet and on his credit cards.
Over an eight month
period between January and August 2011 he sought to illicitly obtain
information on the arrests of two men on behalf of Scarborough as well
as one of his associates.
All four suspects were being watched by police at the time as part of a major investigation into a heroin and cocaine racket operating across Lancashire, Cumbria, Merseyside, Berkshire and West Yorkshire.
They and 32 other men were later jailed after police seized heroin and cocaine worth £1.5million along with more than £200,000 in cash during a series of raids.
Secret: Ditta, 42, fed information to criminals because of fears his cocaine addiction would be exposed
Today at Liverpool Crown Court Ditta, who works at law firm Forbes Solicitors, based in Blackburn, was facing disgrace after being found guilty of two counts of perverting the course of justice following a three week trial at Liverpool Crown Court.
He admitted cocaine possession at an earlier hearing.
The lawyer’s downfall came after police investigating Scarborough discovered he had been in regular phone contact with Ditta in February 2011.
Two detectives trailed the suspect and spotted him arriving at Ditta’s house in and was seen to place the drugs which had a purity of 60 per cent under the lawyer’s bins in a black golf glove.
Soon after the drop off, Scarborough was in regular phone contact with Ditta who had been out at the dinner at the Blackburn Rovers football stadium, Ewood Park.
The lawyer returned home to discover the drugs and there were nine communications between them.
'Top brief' for criminals: The court heard Ditta was a 'regular user' of cocaine after tests found traces of the Class A drug in his hair, wallet and on his credit cards
Ditta was arrested later but denied using cocaine and and said he had been speaking to the suspected dealer because he was his client and argued their discussions were subject to 'legal privilege.'
During his arrest Ditta picked up his wallet and tried to remove several credit cards but they were all seized and a hair sample was taken fom him.
In a police interview he said he ran an office at his home address as well as work place and clients would call at his house on legal business.
But the court heard he would call major players in the drugs supply chain, some of whom he had previously represented, after key arrests to tell them what detectives knew about them.
Prosecuting, Anne Whyte said: 'If anyone should know not to the break the law, it is a criminal solicitor. Mr Ditta is accused of abusing his position as a criminal solicitor, having become too involved with specific clients.
Office: Forbes Solicitors in Blackburn, Lancashire, where top defence lawyer Basaharat Ditta worked
'The relationship we are talking about is not simply a drug dealer, but a drug dealer providing his own lawyer with drugs.
'Some of his communications will undoubtedly have been legitimate ones because he was their lawyer. But this went way beyond the ordinary confines of a lawyer-client relationship.
'He thwarted the police’s investigation as much as possible to enable them to continue in their criminal activities. Mr Ditta was not honouring his profession, but dishonouring it.
'He got too close to certain clients, in particular Scarborough, and he allowed his independence to be compromised.'
Exposed: Ditta, pictured outside Liverpool Crown Court, was arrested in 2011 after a police surveillance operation into drug trafficking
Ditta denied wrongdoing and claimed: 'If I was a corrupt lawyer, which I am not, and I wanted to feed information to Mr Scarborough, I would not wait 15 hours, I would do it immediately.'
But after the hearing Supt Lee Halstead from Lancashire Police said: 'Mr Ditta turned from criminal solicitor to a criminal himself the moment he started obtaining drugs from organised criminals.
'His addiction to cocaine left him hopelessly compromised and vulnerable to the motives of leading members of organised crime groups who tasked him to obtain valuable information regarding police investigations.
'Solicitors should uphold the highest standards of integrity and should instil trust and confidence in the public.
'Mr Ditta has betrayed this trust and attempted to hide behind the veneer of his profession.
'Lancashire’s Serious and Organised Crime Unit led the investigation into Mr Ditta which has also seen him convicted of three counts of possession of cocaine and now perverting the course of justice, demonstrating our commitment to bringing criminals to justice
'Let this case serve as a warning to criminals that no one is beyond the reach of the law. We will find you and put you before the courts.'
Scarborough himself was jailed for 14 years after pleading guilty to conspiracy to supply heroin, cocaine and cannabis.
Thirty five other men involved in the racket were jailed for a total of 153 years for drugs offences.
On his website Ditta gave a question and answer session about himself in which he says his fantasy job would be a lawyer representing clients on Death Row in America, his ultimate dinner guest as being Mohammed Ali and inequality as his motivation for work.
On a website forum one client said of Ditta: 'He’s a top brief. If you get arrested and go to the desk to give your details, they ask you if you want a brief and if so which one.
'More often than not when you say yes, I want Bash they just put their head in their hands and sigh cause they know it’s a big waste of time. You aint getting charged!'