Ashfield councillor’s street assault on political rival

Coun Tom Hollis
Coun Tom Hollis

A Liberal Democrat councillor said he is going to lodge an appeal after magistrates found him guilty of assaulting a political rival on a Kirkby street.

Thomas Hollis was ordered to pay £50 compensation to the former chairman of Ashfield District Council and Labour member Linford Gibbons following a tussle between the two during this year’s election campaign.

Hollis, who represents the Ashfields ward on Ashfield District Council, had denied assault by beating but he

was found guilty by magistrates in Derby after a day-long trial.

The incident happened while they were both delivering leaflets.

The court was told that Mr Gibbons was approached by Hollis, who pulled up in his car on Lindrick Road, Kirkby, on Sunday, April 15.

Mr Gibbons said Hollis opened the car door, striking him in the chest, and later caused a small scratch on the forehead between the eyes.

“He jabbed a finger into my baseball cap and pushed his finger up. He dislodged my glasses and baseball cap, which was all skew-whiff,” he said.

“I shouted out to Tom Hollis ‘that’s assault’.

“I had a bag of leaflets and leaflets in my hand. I was trying to juggle with my glasses and my hat.”

When questioned by police, Hollis said Mr Gibbons ‘may have marked himself’, claiming he was keen to keep his seat on the council so he could receive expenses of ‘£100,000 over four years’.

Hollis, 22, of Windmill Close, Sutton, told magistrates that the election for the newly-formed Larwood seat was on a ‘very, very tight rope’.

He said Mr Gibbons was annoyed because the Lib Dems were distributing papers for independent candidate Jason Zadrozny, a former Lib Dem.

Mr Gibbons - who lost the seat to Coun Zadrozny - was ‘very angry and red in the face’ when he saw him on the street.

Hollis told the court: “He took his cap and threw it at me.”

As he drove off, Mr Gibbons used ‘intimidation tactics by following in his car flashing lights and honking his horn’.

Prosecutor Michael Treharne asked Hollis whether he regarded the allegations as “a total fabrication.”

He replied: “It is difficult to see it any other way. I have a reputation to uphold - a reputation for being quite calm and well-mannered. I am telling the truth.”

Witness Susan Ball, a retired headteacher, said she saw a car come ‘screeching round the roundabout and thought it was a boy racer’.

She said it stopped, the driver got out and knocked the hat off the head of a man on the pavement.

Coun Zadrozny told magistrates he knew Ms Ball as ‘a Labour activist’ because that was how she had described herself when he had canvassed her.

He claimed the case had been inspired by Mr Gibbons, saying: “He is a mercurial, Machiavellian, pretty nasty old man.”

Presiding magistrate Kath Heap, who sat with two male JPs, said they regarded Ms Ball’s evidence as impartial and told Hollis: “You and Mr Zadrozny were evasive in your answers.”

As well as the compensation to Mr Gibbons, Hollis was ordered to pay £620 prosecution costs, a £520 criminal court charge and a £15 government surcharge. He was also handed a one-year conditional discharge.

When the bench returned their verdict, he told them: “I didn’t do it.”

After the hearing, he said: “I am surprised and disappointed by this verdict and I still maintain my innocence.

“I will be appealing at the earliest given opportunity to restore my good character.

“I have been taken aback that a political row has gone this far but firmly maintain that I did not raise my hands to anyone.”

Mr Gibbons said after the case: “Justice has been done.

“It was a shocking incident and I have had sleepless nights. I feel sorry for the witnesses who had to come along.”