Prison for harasser who forced Kettering MP to hide in woods

He's been put behind bars

By Sam Wildman
Monday, 14th March 2022, 7:30 am
Updated Monday, 14th March 2022, 9:26 am

When Philip Hollobone was first contacted by constituent Marcus Ambrose, the Kettering MP would never have imagined having to give evidence against him at a criminal trial.

Ambrose, 41, sought the Conservative's help in raising his long-standing complaint about Northamptonshire Police at the highest level.

But when he did not get his way or the answers he wanted he began a campaign of harassment which left Mr Hollobone feeling frightened, alarmed and upset.

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Philip Hollobone arrives at Northampton Magistrates' Court.

Ambrose bombarded him with more than 200 calls and messages, forced him to hide in a wood after pursuing him when he was jogging and falsely accused him of domestic abuse and child sex crimes.

On Friday (March 11) after a two-day trial at Northampton Magistrates' Court he was jailed for 26 weeks having being found guilty of harassment, despite his protest that his behaviour didn't amount to a crime.

The court heard Ambrose, of Church Lane in Great Cransley, asked Mr Hollobone to help him take on the police and police complaints system over what he perceived to be an injustice, relating to their handling of an allegation against him in about 2010. Mr Hollobone, who has represented Kettering in Parliament since 2005, forwarded his concerns to policing minister Kit Malthouse MP not once but twice, in February and November 2020, who replied to say that Ambrose should instead look at getting independent legal advice.

Ambrose would not accept the answers he received and in 2021 - after being given a suspended sentence for harassing Northamptonshire's chief constable Nick Adderley - he began contacting his MP more and more.

Mr Hollobone said his 'ancient' phone, at times, had so many messages from Ambrose that the memory was full. A police analysis of Ambrose's phone later found that he had made 242 attempts to contact his MP between June 24 and July 8 alone.

Giving evidence, Mr Hollobone said: "This had really crossed a line and I was feeling upset. I was rather alarmed that he was contacting me so often. Eventually I felt really quite frightened that he could potentially come round to my house."

He added: "I have never had anything like this in all my 17 years (of being an MP)."

The court heard Ambrose later turned up at the Kettering Constituency Conservative Association offices and Mr Hollobone sent him a 'cease and desist' letter, telling him to stop all contact. But a few days after the letter Ambrose's behaviour went 'off the scale'.

Prosecutor Mark Fielding asked Mr Hollobone: "Did he make any specific threats?"

Mr Hollobone replied: "He said if you do not sort this out I am going to come round to your house with my dogs."

Ambrose denied making this threat when he gave evidence from the witness box.

On July 28 Mr Hollobone was out jogging and using a public bridleway near Ambrose's house when a car passed him. It was Ambrose, who turned around and pulled up alongside him before starting to film him.

The court heard an alarmed Mr Hollobone jumped over a gate and ran through Cransley Wood, where he hid. Mr Hollobone said Ambrose pursued him and shouted words to the effect of 'you cannot run away'. Ambrose later emailed the Northants Telegraph and falsely claimed the MP would be arrested because he had 'caught him on his driveway'.

It would prove not to be the only false accusation Ambrose would make to this newspaper.

Mr Fielding told the court how the defendant "went for the nuclear option, making foul and scurrilous allegations" about Mr Hollobone.

Ambrose commented on one Northants Telegraph Facebook post, where he falsely accused the MP of beating up his former wife and of once being arrested for molesting children in Honduras. He repeated the accusations to police officers when he was interviewed and filed a crime report.

Mr Fielding said: "There is not a shred of evidence that this took place."

He added: "You can imagine how this would make a man feel, said against him not just in a public forum but to the police."

Ambrose claimed he had been told about the allegations by Cllr Jim Hakewill and another former Northamptonshire councillor. Cllr Hakewill gave evidence to say this was not true.

Defending, Paul Webb said Hollobone had 'turned a deaf ear' to Ambrose's desperate requests for help and that his repeated attempts to contact him were because he simply wanted to discuss the situation.

In his evidence, Ambrose told the court that he had been a successful businessman until he was seriously injured when he was run over in 2014 by thugs who were trying to break into his car. He said he had been wrongly accused of a crime in about 2010 and fighting it ever since, but that the authorities swept it under the carpet despite him "having proof" they had lied.

He said Mr Hollobone had been dismissive and that he continued to try to contact him because he could not afford the legal advice he had been told to get.

Ambrose said: "He was my last port of call. I had tried everything and did not know what I had done wrong. It was just a case of 'please, help me'.

"He was my voice...I just wanted someone to stick up for me. I just felt my voice was being taken away and I did not have a voice."

Ambrose had claimed in one email that he had been "speaking to police in Honduras" about the allegation he made against Mr Hollobone. Giving evidence he said he had actually emailed them but not received a reply. He added that he had found out that Mr Hollobone had once travelled to Honduras on an aid mission by reading it on Wikipedia and did not know if the allegation he had made was true or not.

After deliberating over a lunch break Senior District Judge Paul Goldspring - the chief magistrate for England and Wales - found Ambrose guilty of harassment and said his account was not only untruthful but "designed deliberately to manipulate".

Mr Webb urged the judge to give Ambrose "one last chance" and defer any sentence to give him an opportunity to prove himself.

But Judge Goldspring said: "At some point the court has to consider not rehabilitation, not punishment, but deterrents...if I do not impose a custodial sentence what's going to stop him?"

Ambrose was jailed for 16 weeks for harassment and also had 10 weeks of his previous suspended sentence activated. He will serve half of his 26-week sentence behind bars before being released on licence.

He will also be subject to an indefinite restraining order, banning him from contacting the Conservative MP.

After being sentenced Ambrose turned to Mr Hollobone in the public gallery and apologised. He had earlier pleaded guilty to a separate charge of breaching a restraining order and was found not guilty of another.

After the trial Mr Hollobone told the Northants Telegraph: "It's a genuine honour to serve as MP for the Kettering constituency but no MP should have to put up with harassment from a constituent."