Police chief Paddick cheered by residents

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Commander Brian Paddick was greeted by a standing ovation from Lambeth residents last night when he arrived unexpectedly at a meeting calling for his reinstatement.

The Metropolitan Police's most senior openly gay officer, who has been credited with cutting street crime and boosting drug arrests in a notoriously difficult area after deciding not to arrest cannabis users, appeared for five minutes at an extraordinary meeting of the Lambeth Community Police Consultative Group.

Arriving on stage an hour and a half into the meeting to be met by cheers, Mr Paddick said: "I just wanted to come along to thank all of you here and to the literally hundreds of people who have sent me e-mails," he said.

Mr Paddick, 43, who was moved from his job pending an inquiry after tabloid allegations that he had smoked cannabis, has received overwhelming support from those in the area. He said last night: "All I want to do is to come back and serve the people of Lambeth. I hope I am going to be allowed to do so very soon."