Committal for Contempt of Court: Chief Constable of Lancashire Constabulary -v- Tombs

County CourtCommittal for Contempt of Court

Case Number: J00PR055

In The County Court at Blackpool

17 August 2023

District Judge Woosnam

Chief Constable Of Lancashire Constabulary
Ashley Tombs


MS. L. HALSALL-FISCHEL for the Claimant MR. P. NELLIGAN for the Defendant


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  1. This is the matter of Chief Constable of Lancashire v Ashley Tombs. It is committal proceedings in relation to two tranches of breaches, alleged breaches, all of which have been admitted, although Mr. Nelligan has pointed out that some of them are not admitted to the extent that is put before the court by the Chief Constable. I have been greatly assisted by both Ms. Halsall-Fischel on behalf of the Chief Constable and by Mr. Nelligan on behalf of Ashley Tombs.
  2. As I say, there are two tranches and there is an overhanging suspended sentence that was imposed by myself in July of last year which I will have to take into account. Briefly, the second tranche of breaches postdate an order I made on 23rd May deferring sentence of the first tranche of breaches. The witness statements given in that case of the second tranche include one from PC White, who identifies incidents starting to occur after 1st June 2023 and I am told there are a great number, 14 relating to the second tranche, so there are a number of alleged occasions. Those in themselves, it has to be said that it is disappointing that those sort of occurrences occurred so soon after he was released from the court on 23rd May and it is even more disappointing that so many have occurred. It is perhaps slightly surprising that those having occurred, that he was not back before the court before now but, anyway, he was not and here we are.
  3. The starting point as far as these matters are concerned I will return to in a moment. There are the first set of breaches for which he made his admissions in May of this year and for which sentence was deferred. Those included similar sorts of allegations of breaches as to those made after May, including threats to kill, shouting abusive language, accusing ladies of being baby killers, accusing them of having killed his baby, that he has trapped people at work, that he has behaved like this in the presence of those people allegedly at their home but also in front of their children and that he has, on one occasion, left having said sorry and then returned later and persisted in his behaviour for a number of hours outside the house.
  4. These are all serious breaches of the injunction which was imposed. I should say that the original injunction, 17th May 2022, insofar as it relates to persons, does not specify any particular persons but it does specify that he should not cause harassment, alarm or distress to any person lawfully present in the boroughs of Fylde, Blackpool and Wyre and not to use abusive and foul language towards any such person or threaten violence or use violence against any such person or possessing an offensive weapon, including a firearm. Apart from the fact that he has not used violence against any person and, of course, that is to be taken into account in assessing this, he has breached all of those.
  5. The intent of that order is to protect people in general as opposed to particular individuals. If it was for particular individuals, they could have been named but they were not, so it is persons in general. One aspect of this case is that it appears that quite often it is the same people who complained the first time around who now complain the second time around. There is a difference of view between Ms. Halsall-Fischel and the way she puts it, using the word “targeting” and Mr. Nelligan, who says it is not targeting; it is the accident of being in Fleetwood, Fleetwood being a small or relatively small town, everybody knowing everybody and coincidentally Mr. Tombs bumps into the same people over and over again and when he is of the mind that is set to be abusive, he is abusive in the same way. It is just unfortunate that those people get caught twice. Nevertheless, the order is there to protect anybody and everybody and it is a breach in that sense, so one has to say that to an extent it is targeting the general people of Fleetwood and this can result in particular people being abused more than once and that has to be taken into account.
  1. Looking then at the two tranches, if I deal first with the first tranche, where would that sit looking at this for pitching it in the sentencing matrix that arises out of the Lovett v Wigan Borough Council [2022] EWCA Civ 1631 case? I say, first of all, and remind myself of this, the object here is to try and get Mr. Tombs to comply with the order that was there in the first place. That is why sentence was deferred on 23rd May to 5th September this year. That was why, so that he could take some assistance with some treatment that he could possibly get through Inspire at Fleetwood, from whom apparently he was already receiving some assistance. The second is punishment and third is rehabilitation. What is hoped or the objective, of course, is to try and avoid him behaving in this manner in the future. I can accept, in some respects, that when he is of the right mind, so to speak, that he would not behave in that way. The trouble is too often he is of the wrong mind.
  2. What is the starting point for the first matters? The factors to take into account of those five clearly are persistent disobedience. There has been a suspended sentence imposed. That they were as against persons who the injunction sought to protect, the people of Fleetwood in particular but in general, the people of Fylde, Blackpool and Wyre, and that some of those people have been specifically abused previously. Those are the aggravating factors. He certainly caused distress at that stage but I recall from the statements that almost all of the persons who were victims said that they did not want to pursue Mr. Tombs as a victim. They felt his behaviour was unacceptable and they wanted the order to safeguard themselves and others from his behaviour. In short, they wanted him to alter or amend his behaviour. They did feel a sense of, in each case, harassment and distress. Probably, if I was looking at that, I would place that as culpability in category A but actually, in terms of whether it was very serious harm in category 2, so it would be a starting point of three months.
  3. I am going to go on then and contrast that with the second tranche. The second tranche, the position must be culpability must certainly be in category A. This is still further history of disobedience to court orders. The breaches appear to have been committed relatively shortly after the release on bail, the court having deferred sentence. It does involve persons who had previously been abused by him and the statements there are much stronger in the sense of the harm and distress which those persons felt:- not wanting to go to work, one person locking herself in a car. It is much more, in those circumstances, a greater sense of harm and distress about the behaviour of Mr. Tombs and in those we have allegations about banging a stick on the floor, appearing with weapons and objects and being generally threatening. So that, in my view, would take that into A1 with a starting point of six months. So for each of those, you have one, a starting point of three months; the other, a starting point of six months.
  4. Considering the aggravating factors, the second tranche, I think, has to move the sentencing above six months unless one can find mitigating features. Ms. Halsall- Fischel has understandably submitted that there do not appear to be any mitigating features, that there is no misunderstanding of the orders, Mr. Tombs has stood before me in this court and said he understands what he has to do. They cannot be said to be breaches after a long period of compliance; they are short periods of compliance. However, there is a factor of ill health and mental disorder and that needs to be taken into account and I have heard from Mr. Nelligan about, in effect, how he comes to be where he is, from the events of his earlier life.
  1. Taking those into account, the aggravating circumstances would move the second tranche above six months but those factors, mitigating factors, leave it, in my view, at six months. The earlier tranche would start at three months and, effectively, I am going to apply the same logic to that and it would leave that at three months. I would impose those sentences, looking at where we are now, to run concurrently as opposed to consecutively, so we are then looking at those in those terms. I then have to apply to each of them a third reduction, so it becomes four months and two months.
  2. As far as the suspended sentence is concerned, it has to be implemented and I can see no reason why, having been given the chance with a suspended sentence to behave and comply as far back as July and having breached it on numerous occasions since, breached the injunction on numerous occasions since, effectively totally ignoring the fact that he had a suspended sentence hanging over him, why he should avoid that at all or in any way whatsoever and the suspended sentence will be activated as to the four weeks to run consecutively with the other sentences. So you will finish up with four months, two months running concurrently for the two tranches and plus four weeks.