Men who threw chemicals in ‘frightening’ daylight street brawl near York Minster are jailed

Jailed: Simon Turner and Lee Thomas

Three men have been jailed for a total of five years for brawling close to York Minster with weapons, including a bottle of ammonia.

The incident took place between the Minster and Museum Gardens in broad daylight.

It happened in April 2018 in the presence of many members of the public.


York Crown Court, where the defendants were sentenced today (Thursday), heard that Lee Thomas approached Simon Turner and Christopher Norton at the junction between Duncombe Place and Museum Street in York at around 7pm.

A violent altercation involving weapons followed.

Threw ammonia

Jailed: Christopher Norton
Thomas punched Norton repeatedly and threw him to the ground. Turner removed a bottle of ammonia from his rucksack and threw the contents at Thomas before putting the bottle down.

Thomas removed a large heavy duty bike chain from his body and waved it at Norton and Turner, although he did not hit them with it.

Norton picked up the bottle used by Turner and squirted more of its contents at Thomas. Norton and Turner left the scene.


Thomas suffered discomfort and had to pour water over his face to wash away the ammonia but he suffered no injuries or burns.

The fight caused traffic to stop and caused several members of the public to fear for their safety.

Thomas was arrested at the scene and Norton and Turner were arrested the following day. Thomas’ clothing was forensically examined and ammonia was found.

‘Cowardly weapon’

Suspended sentence: Sarah Tams
On 13 March this year, Simon Turner, 38, and Christopher Norton, 38, pleaded guilty to affray and possession of an offensive weapon in a public place, namely the bottle containing a solution of ammonia.

On 2 September this year, Lee Thomas 44 finally pleaded guilty to affray. All three men were remanded in custody pending sentencing.

Today, a judge at York Crown Court jailed all three men and described the ammonia as a “deeply unpleasant and cowardly weapon”, the use of which will attract a custodial sentence.

The sentences

Simon Turner, previously of Beaconsfield Street, York, received a total prison sentence of 27 months. His sentence reflected that he had brought the bottle of ammonia to the scene.

Christopher Norton, of no fixed address, received a total sentence of 22 months in jail; this included a sentence for failing to attend court at an earlier hearing.

Lee Thomas, previously of Burdyke Avenue, York, received a total sentence of 12 months in prison; this included a sentence for purchasing a stun gun for his partner Sarah Tams.

Sarah Tams, 47, received a custodial sentence of six months for possession of the stun gun together with a rehabilitation requirement. Tams’ custodial sentence was suspended for a year in light of a medical report.

In July last year, police attended the home of Thomas and Tams following reports that a taser had been seen there. A non-lethal stun gun was recovered – it was designed to inflict pain but not lasting injury.

Tams admitted to possession of the stun gun, which she said she had obtained to protect herself against a violent ex-partner. Thomas admitted using his bank card and an on-line account to purchase the stun gun for Tams.

Thanks to witnesses

Detective Constable Al Foy, of York CID, said: “The fight between Thomas, Turner and Norton was a frightening incident for the members of the public present, with ammonia being thrown and a heavy-duty chain brandished.

“I would like to thank the many members of the public who gave statements to the police and who attended court to give evidence.

“It was fortunate that no one was seriously injured during the incident. As the judge said, Turner and Norton had no idea of the strength of the ammonia or its likely effect when they threw it into Thomas’ face.

“York is a safe city and the immediate custodial sentences given to Turner, Thomas and Norton make it an even safer place.”