A JUDGE has commended the bravery of two undercover West Yorkshire Police officers after jailing a professional criminal for 14 years.

The officers were said to have fooled Bradford drug dealer John Waters and his accomplice, Adam Ashton from Mirfield, into believing they were drug addicts who could be ripped off over a £3,500 cocaine deal.

The officers, who were part of an anti-drugs operation known as Operation Greystoke, arranged to meet up with the duo for a handover in the Grimescar Road area of Ainley Top in February.

A jury at Bradford Crown Court heard during a trial how 40-year-old Waters and Ashton, 28, turned up in a Range Rover and after the deal had taken place their vehicle was stopped by armed officers on the Huddersfield Road heading towards Mirfield.

Ashton, who is yet to be sentenced for his role, tried to run off but was knocked to the ground by an off-duty police officer and when he was searched he was found to have a loaded 9mm semi-automatic handgun in his pocket.

The substance handed over to the undercover officers turned out to be a mixture of the cutting agents lignocaine and caffeine and Judge Jonathan Durham Hall QC said he was satisfied that the duo had taken the gun with them in case the ruse was uncovered.

Yesterday Waters, of Far Highfield Close, Idle, was found guilty on charges of possessing a prohibited weapon, possession of ammunition without a firearms certificate, offering to supply controlled drugs and possessing criminal property.

It emerged that in 1997 he was given a five-year prison sentence for conspiracy to supply cocaine and heroin and 2005 he was jailed again for six years for wounding with intent to do grievous bodily harm.

He was only released from that sentence in February 2009.

The judge told Waters: “It is clear to me and I suspect any mature observer that you are a professional criminal.

“Such was the skill of the undercover officers that they clearly and totally beguiled you and Ashton and you thought you were dealing with a couple of smackheads ... people of no consequence who could be treated with contempt and conned.’’

The judge said the officers had baited the duo with increasing orders for cocaine until through their skill, persistence and bravery they placed an order for two ounces of high purity cocaine.

“You and Mr Ashton determined that you could pass off the cutting agent as cocaine when you met for the final deal,’’ said the judge.

“It is a particularly significant and aggravating feature of these offences that you and your colleague were prepared to go in broad daylight along the streets and roads of West Yorkshire armed with a loaded firearm and to use it if necessary to enforce this deal.’’

After jailing Waters for 14 years Judge Durham Hall QC said he wanted to commend the courageous officers in the highest terms adding that they had clearly been playing with a potentially lethal situation.

“A commendation from me through their Chief Constable will be some small token of the court's appreciation,’’ the judge added.