An SAS hero who smuggled cannabis into the UK for his suffering ex-army colleagues after claiming the Government had failed to care for them has been spared jail by a sympathetic judge.
Paul Boucher, 52, who was mentioned in dispatches for his ‘inspirational leadership and bravery’ in Northern Ireland where he saved lives, said the Government had “let down” his fellow soldiers who were suffering from a range of conditions including post-traumatic stress disorder.
A court heard he was forced to leave the army because of disabilities from his distinguished 22-year service with the Army.
They included a spinal injury from parachute jumping, deafness in both ears, osteoarthritis in his left knee and depression.
Boucher moved to the warmer climate of Spain and was caught trying to drive through Dover with 1.7kgs of cannabis worth £7,000 hidden in his car.
He said he was planning to give it to his ex-army pals suffering from multiple sclerosis and other conditions and because the Government failed to care for them.
He admitted possessing the drug and intending to supply it – an offence that carries a maximum three-year jail term.
But instead he walked free from Canterbury Crown Court with a 12-month sentence suspended for two years.
Judge Nigel Van Der Bijl told him: “I have to sentence you but I am going to say no more.”
Prosecutor Donna East said Boucher, who lives on his boat ‘Ocean Kiss’ in Almeria, was caught with three bags of cannabis hidden in the false bottom of a toolbox in his car.
The ex-soldier, who walks with a stick, said he was planning to visit ex-army colleagues and was planning to supply the cannabis “to ease their pain”.
Boucher told the court: “Serving in the army is like having a family and we keep in contact with one another.
“I have friends, one with MS another with PTSD, and they smoke cannabis to relieve their symptoms, although I don’t use it.
“I had planned to disperse the drugs among my five friends for their own personal use. No money was involved.”
Judge Van Der Bijl was shown a certificate of Exemplary Military Conduct and Character and letters from senior officers “congratulating the defendant on his mentions in Dispatches”.
Boucher spent three years with the famous 22 SAS Regiment between July 1977 and November 1980 and the rest of his military career with the Royal Anglia Regiment.
The judge read that on August 8 1986, during his seventh tour of Northern Ireland, he “was instrumental in saving lives”.
The citation adds: “His inspirational leadership and bravery in very dangerous circumstances were above and beyond the call of rank and duty and he merits the highest possible recognition.”
His commanding officer later wrote to Boucher praising the soldier’s “moral courage in firing first and I am sure that action prevented the RUC from being hit properly”.
In 1988 he was recommended for promotion “because he is a first class soldier with endless motivation”.
Boucher told the judge: “I left the army in 1994 and set up my own locksmith company but after nine years I had to give it up.
“I receive a war disability pension for various injuries I received while I served and my doctor said I needed to move to a warmer climate.”
He said he moved to France and then went to live on a yacht in Spain and did a few jobs for other friends in the boating community.
Boucher claimed a man offered him the cannabis in exchange for work he had done.
He said: “I’d done about one thousand Euros worth of work but instead of getting cash I took the cannabis although I accept now it would be worth ten times that on the streets in the UK.
“I never realised how serious it was. I knew it was illegal. But this is called looking after your army family[…]something this Government has let down (sic).”
Ms East asked him: “So this isn’t really a case of you just topping up your army pension?”
Boucher replied: “No it’s not. You can check my bank account.”
Defending, Simon Taylor said: “I know that this seems an extraordinary account but it is from an extraordinary man with a history of being someone who takes risks for his friends.
“We say it is a genuine account. His motivation for this social supply of cannabis was compassion.”
Last week the government was accused of failing to honour the military covenant by not providing veterans with appropriate health care.
Professor Neil Greenberg, from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said politicians needed to be “a bit more honest” about how the government is helping ex-military personnel.
But health minister Dan Poulter said the government had invested more than £22m in mental health and prosthetic services “for those most in need”.
Edited by Melanie Hall