In October 1957 the chief constable of Brighton and two of his CID team were arrested and charged with corruption. They were alleged to have 'conspired together and with other persons unknown to solicit and obtain rewards'. The story shocked the nation, involving a cast of low-life characters and filling column after Fleet Street column as it unfolded.
After a two-week hearing before Brighton magistrates the men were sent for trial at the Old Bailey in London. The detectives and another man were found guilty and sent to prison. The chief constable, Charles Ridge, was acquitted but dismissed from the police force.
This colourful account - the first book to have been written about the scandal - focuses on the ten days during which Brighton magistrates heard the detailed evidence which convinced them there was a case to answer. More than 60 witnesses came forward to spill the beans about what they knew.
Author David Rowland joined Brighton Police soon after the sensational trial, when the reputation of the force was at its lowest. In Bent Cops he recreates the drama of 50 years ago, when crowds gathered daily outside Brighton town hall to hear the latest revelations about robberies, backhanders, bribes, protection rackets, back-street abortions and the intimidation of witnesses.
Here is an excerpt from the book, which recounts the intimidation of a key witness
In the 1940s and 50s there were several gangs in London, all vying for 'a piece of the action' and all trying to make huge profits from their illegal activiites. Some of them, such as the Krays and the Richardsons, were to become household names. Perhaps the best known gangland character in the early days was 'Jack Spot' (real name Jack Comer), a Jewish criminal who controlled much of the East End of London during the 1930s, 40s and 50s.
By the 1950s, however, there was a new 'top dog' - the so-called Soho Don. His real name was Billy Howard. His word was law and his brutal associates saw to it that it remained so...
Three days after the start of the Brighton hearing, Betty Lawrence received a visit. It was almost midnight on a cold wintry evening. She was walking in the town centre, wearing an astrakhan coat with the fur collar pulled up high around her face against the chill. She hadn't taken much notice of the dark coloured car that cruised slowly past her and then turned the street corner and came to a stop. Four men dressed in expenseive dark suits got out of the car, their scarred faces indicating that they were tough guys and had been involved in many gangland scraps. They certainly weren't the sort of people law abiding citizens would care to have as friends... "