MP is found guilty of harassment

Court case hears former councillor called partner’s friend a ‘slag’ and threatened to ‘use acid’

Friday, 15th October 2021 — By Helen Chapman

Claudia_Webbe_MP_credit David Woolfall

Claudia Webbe. Photo: David Woolfall

AN MP and former Islington councillor has been found guilty of harassment and warned she could be facing a prison sentence.

Claudia Webbe, 56, appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday charged with harassing a woman who said she has been friends with her current partner, Lester Thomas, for 15 years and had previously dated him.

Ms Webbe, who was a councillor in Islington for 11 years before stepping down earlier this year after becoming an MP in Leicester, had denied the allegations and her lawyers said she will appeal against the conviction.

The court heard Ms Webbe had called the victim a “slag”, threatened to “use acid” and said she would send naked photos of her to her family.

Michelle Merritt said the harassment took place from September 2018 until April last year. Ms Webbe was living with Mr Thomas, who works for Crossrail and is a football scout for Chelsea, throughout this time.

The court heard how on April 25 last year, Ms Merritt received two calls both from Ms Webbe’s number. Ms Webbe repeatedly said over the phone “get out of my relationship”.

When questioned about this phone call by the prosecution, Ms Webbe said she was angry at Mr Thomas for breaking lockdown rules by continuing to meet up with Ms Merritt. Ms Webbe said she was angry at Mr Thomas for this, not Ms Merritt, and was telling Ms Merritt to stop breaking the Covid rules with him.

Chief magistrate Paul Goldspring said in his verdict: “I do not find the defendant to be cogent, compelling and truthful in aspects of her evidence. Some of the things she said in evidence I believe were made up on the spur of the moment.”

He added: “In short, I find Ms Webbe to be vague, incoherent and at times illogical.”

Ms Webbe became MP for Leicester East in 2019. The court heard it was her lifelong dream to become an MP. Calls are now being made for her to give up her seat.

The court heard statements from Ms Webbe’s former friends, colleagues and allies attesting to her good character.

A statement read to the court from previous council leader Richard Watts said: “In a professional setting Claudia can be direct… however, her behaviour has always been professional and appropriate.”

Retired police officer Leroy Logan said in a statement Ms Webbe is a “passionate campaigner of justice and equality” and he had “never seen her lose her temper or be unprofessional.” Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn, the former leader o­f the Labour Party, said in a statement he found Ms Webbe to be “warm-hearted” and “a dedicated person”.

MP John McDonnell said in a statement he knew Ms Webbe for over a decade, saying he found her “honest, responsible and extremely caring”.

Mr Goldspring said he would consider Ms Webbe’s “good character” when deciding her ­sentence. The case has been adjourned until November 4.

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