MP Webbe loses appeal to overturn conviction

Former Islington councillor was given a suspended prison sentence last year

Friday, 27th May — By Anna Lamche

Claudia Webbe_MP_credit David Woolfall

Claudia Webbe. Photo: David Woolfall

CLAUDIA Webbe MP has lost her appeal to overturn a harassment conviction, despite being cleared of threatening to throw acid over a woman with whom her partner was having an affair.

The former Islington councillor was given a suspended prison sentence last year for harassing Michelle Merritt, a woman who had been involved with Ms Webbe’s partner, Lester Thomas.

Ms Webbe, the MP for Leicester East, was hoping to see her conviction overturned at Southwark Crown Court this week.
At last year’s trial, the court heard between September 2018 and April 2020 Ms Webbe made a string of silent phone calls to Ms Merritt and threatened to share her naked photos and throw acid over her.

While the court of appeal found that Ms Webbe had not threatened to throw acid over Ms Merritt – a detail widely reported at the time – yesterday (Thursday) Judge Deborah Taylor and two magistrates found Ms Webbe had nevertheless pursued “a course of conduct which amounted to harassment”.

In her evidence, Ms Merritt said Ms Webbe had told her over the phone: “You’re a slag and you should be acid’ [sic]”.
Judge Taylor described the phrase “should be acid” as “peculiar” and said Ms Merritt may have misunderstood Ms Webbe.

Last year Ms Merritt told the court she had just been “good friends” with Mr Thomas.

Since then, evidence has emerged that Ms Merritt was in fact in a sexual relationship with Ms Webbe’s partner.

In light of this new evidence, Ms Webbe’s barrister Helen Law accused Ms Merritt of misleading the court last year.

However, prosecutor Susannah Stevens said this information “is actually unhelpful to the appellant’s case because Claudia Webbe’s suspicions as to all of that provide her not with a defence but with a motivation”.

Ms Webbe said she had separated from Mr Thomas in March when she found out he had sent Ms Merritt a series of sexually explicit text messages.

The court of appeal must now decide whether to uphold Ms Webbe’s sentence or to alter it.

Ms Webbe was expelled from the Labour Party last year following her conviction and sits as an independent MP in Parliament.

She is now under immense pressure to resign, although under law she cannot be forced to stand down unless sentenced to a year or more in prison.

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