A bus driver who was sacked after testing positive for cocaine has won almost £40,000 in compensation at an employment tribunal.

Kenneth Ball, 62, from Canvey, failed a random drugs test after a shift in June 2017 when he worked for First Buses.

Dad-of-two Mr Ball, who had a previously unblemished 21-year career, insisted he had never taken drugs and blamed the result on cocaine getting into his saliva from bank notes.

As a diabetic, Mr Ball said he had to test his blood sugar every two hours, resulting in sore fingertips which he said he licked continuously.

The tribunal heard that the "constant handling of money and hand-to-mouth interaction potentially contaminated the sample".

Experts estimate that up to 80 per cent of bank notes in circulation are contaminated with drugs. In a bid to clear his name, Mr Ball had his hair follicles tested at his own expense.

The tests showed no traces of cocaine in his system but the company disregarded this evidence because it was "not part of the company's procedure", the court heard.

Mr Ball sued his former employer for unfair dismissal and has now been awarded £37,369 compensation at the tribunal at the East London Hearing Centre.

Employment Judge Tobin noted that in criminal proceedings, hair follicle testing is accepted as more reliable than saliva tests.

Referring to them variously as “puerile” and “grossly unfair”, judge Tobin found that the managers throughout the hierarchy of the company were “committed to one outcome only and that was to find the claimant guilty”.

Peter Kavanagh, regional secretary of union Unite, which supported Mr Ball, said: "First Essex Buses cruelly plunged Mr Ball into a living nightmare after they disgracefully and wrongly sacked him.

"Managers refused to accept two additional, more reliable tests nor did they publicly acknowledge the implausible nature of Mr Ball's guilt even though they privately acknowledged this possibility."

Mr Ball said he hoped the case would mean no-one else would have to go through such a "terrible ordeal".

He said: "I can never forgive First Buses for the pain they put my wife through."