A POLICE office has been praised for the “calm, professional” way he dealt with an aggressive vigilante on a one-man mission to attack drug dealers.

Judge Jonathan Carroll said PC Michael Crawford ought to be commended for maintaining his cool under severe provocation by Robert Payne, who he detained in the early hours of February 10 this year.

Durham Crown Court heard Payne earlier rang police, telling them over three separate calls that he was going to walk from Tow Law to Crook armed with a metal bar as he was, “on the f***ing rampage tonight”.

Jonathan Walker, prosecuting, said Payne told the operator he was going to, “snap their legs” and “sort them out”, referring to alleged drug dealers in Crook, as the police had done, “jack s**t” about it.

PC Crawford was dispatched to attempt to stop Payne and came across him on the B6299 on the outskirts of Crook.

Mr Walker said Payne was approached and responded “erratically and aggressively”, at one point kneeing the officer in the back of the legs and spitting at him in the face.

He was arrested by PC Crawford who found the metal bar hidden up his sleeve.

Payne made further threats to the officer, who managed to handcuff Payne and detain him until colleagues arrived.

In his victim statement, read to the court by Mr Walker, PC Crawford said he found Payne’s actions, particularly the spitting, “truly disgusting”, adding, “no human being should be subject to that kind of behaviour.”

Judge Carroll told Mr Walker: “If I may say so, his behaviour in the face of such intolerable treatment from the defendant was absolutely impeccable.

“He remained calm, collected and professional. He ought to be commended for his professionalism and his approach.”

The defendant, 31, of Attlee Estate, Tow Law, admitted possessing an offensive weapon and assaulting an emergency worker.

Andrew Finlay, mitigating, told the court: “He’s pleaded guilty to both of these matters, and he’s been very candid and straight forward about what he did.

“He regrets what he did and, as he puts it, it was stupid.

“He said he would like to apologise to the officer involved.”

Mr Finlay said Payne “reacted badly” to a phone call urging someone he knew to close a drug debt, with a threat of violence.

“He set about trying to resolve the matter on his own.

“He telephoned police on his way to the scene to tell them what he was about to do.

“In some way it was a cry for help to be arrested and indicates muddled thinking.”

Passing a nine-month prison sentence, Judge Carroll told Payne he was willing to take the law into his own hands, but when he was detained his behaviour was, “disgusting”.