A New Malden councillor says his name appeared on a leaked list of British National Party (BNP) members because he was undercover in the far-right wing group five years ago.
The Surrey Comet was alerted this week to ex-policeman and Conservative Terry Paton’s surname, postcode and mobile phone number on the list originally leaked in 2009, long before he was an elected councillor.
But Coun Paton, 50, says his membership of the BNP was down to his work as a private investigator for his own security company which he ran for 10 years.
He said: “I was employed to get information – to get in and get out. I was paid for that information.
“I was asked to get information about a person. The person I was trying to get to – I was advised the only way to get that information was to join the BNP.
“It is difficult to get into because I am supposed to be sworn to secrecy. Nobody knows other than the people that employed me.”
Coun Paton, of Portland Avenue, said he had joined a number of radical parties and Labour as part of his investigations.
He said he was a member of the BNP for up to four weeks.
But denouncing the views of the party, he said: “I do not hold those kinds of views. I have never agreed with those kinds of views. I am very much the opposite.”
He added although he found the party “disgusting”, revealing more information about his investigation could compromise the safety of several people.
Conservative leader Kevin Davis said the party backed Coun Paton and said the exposing of extremism was a noble pursuit.
Coun Paton's LinkedIn profile states: “Previous experience in various fields including domestic and corporate investigation, interview techniques, covert/overt tracking and protection.”
Coun Paton is currently the director of plumbing company Paton Heating Limited.
He was first elected ward councillor in the Beverley by-election last July which broke the ward’s Liberal Democrat stronghold.
He replaced disgraced former council leader Derek Osbourne who was jailed for child pornography offences.
Coun Paton was re-elected along with new Conservative councillors Paul Bedforth and Raju Pandya in May.
What Coun Paton said:
"After spending 12 years in the police force, I retired in 1999 due to a foot injury sustained in execution of duty.
"Like many other former police officers, I took up private investigation work shortly after leaving.
"As part of that work I investigated British extremism in 2009.
"While putting together my investigation I was required to join the BNP to investigate more about their internal operational workings.
"I find the BNP and their beliefs to be abhorrent and repulsive which is why I was grateful for the opportunity to investigate and expose some of their nastier members."
What Coun Kevin Davis said:
"One the many reasons Terry is such a popular councillor in Beverley Ward is that he brings his experience as a former police officer to the community.
"Like many other police officers, after leaving the police service, Terry undertook some private investigation work.
"Part of that investigation work involved exposing aspects of nasty British extremism - a noble task.
"At a meeting tonight (Monday) both the Kingston Conservative Group and I had full confidence in Terry and his honesty and ability in standing up for his residents in New Malden for many years to come."