A DISGRACED former solicitor and his ex-girlfriend caught with large amounts of amphetamines while planning to launch an escort agency will be sentenced next month.

Bernard Ridsdale Tombling – previously jailed for defrauding the Legal Aid Board of £170,000 – and Lisa Beatrice Hutchinson admitted possession of an estimated £8,000- worth of the Class B drug at the home they shared in Sedgefield, County Durham.

Tombling and Hutchinson, who were involved in a “tempestuous”

nine-month relationship, were alleged to have planned to sell the drugs to agency clients to “enhance the experience”.

However, they insisted the 851 grammes of the drug known as speed or whizz was for personal use only.

Yesterday, the pair were cleared of a charge of intending to supply by a jury at Durham Crown Court.

Police found small amounts of the Class B drug in the kitchen and in the garage.

But the court heard a much larger batch, 716g, of low purity amphetamines, was recovered from a plastic bag stored next to toilet rolls on a garage shelf.

Police found the drugs, together with a number of used needles, when they were called to a report of a disturbance at the house in Wellgarth Mews, on a Sunday morning in March last year.

A note was found on which they appeared to have written suggestions relating to setting up the escort agency, which ultimately failed to get off the ground.

Among the list of rules of the agency was written: “By (sic) drugs via us.”

Tombling said he bought the big batch from a dealer in Guisborough for what seemed like a bargain £700, but Hutchinson considered it poor quality and refused to use it after an initial dose.

The court was told Tombling bought in bulk as the couple were getting through between £250 and £300-worth of amphetamines a week.

Tombling, 57, of Thirsk Road, Kirklevington, near Yarm, and Hutchinson, 34, of Wellgarth Mews, Sedgefield, admitted possession of the amphetamines at a previous hearing.

Both had denied possession with intent to supply. Following a three-day trial the jury returned not guilty verdicts yesterday.

Recorder Paul Watson said it only left the outstanding sentence for possession of the amphetamines.

“This was possession of a very substantial quantity of Class B drug,” he said. Both were bailed after sentence was adjourned for reports.

During the trial Tombling, who previously used the name Ridsdale-Tombling, was described as a “wealthy property investor”.

Tombling, who once regularly represented clients at Teesside Magistrates’ Court, previously served prison sentences of four years for defrauding the legal aid board of £170,000, which was said to have helped to furnish a lavish lifestyle, and 15 months for indecently assaulting a client of his one-man solicitor’s practice in Eston, Middlesbrough.

He was struck off by the Solicitor’s Disciplinary Tribunal of the Law Society in July 2000.

Later that year confiscation orders were imposed on him of £170,000 to compensate the Legal Aid Board, and £160,000 relating to investment frauds.

But it was believed to have left Tombling with the bulk of his personal wealth, estimated at the time at £2m, mostly said to have been made through shrewd property investments.

Tombling and Hutchinson, who separated following their arrests in March last year, will be sentenced by Recorder Watson at Newcastle Crown Court on Monday August 6.