By Haris Hussnain | Contributor
The former Labour MP for Leicester East, Claudia Webbe, has been suspended by the Labour Party after being found guilty of harassment. Webbe allegedly harassed her boyfriend’s female friend, 59 year old Michele Merritt, threatening to throw acid on Merritt as well as send explicit images to her family.
Webbe has reportedly been making threats to Merritt since 2018.
Westminster Magistrates court heard testimony that the threats have been made during phone calls, where Merritt has been referred to as a “slag” by Webbe. Webbe has also told Merritt approximately 11 times on these calls to “get out of my relationship”.
The MP has denied harassing Merritt, claiming she only made “courtesy calls” to prevent Merritt from breaching COVID-19 restrictions during her interaction with Lester Thomas, her partner.
At the time of the allegations Webbe and Thomas were living together. He went to court with her, holding her hand during the hearing.
During the two day trial, character references from Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and Dianne Abbot were read out by Paul Hynes GQ defending.
Abbot described Webbe as “committed” and stated that she finds her to be “a very honest woman”. The former Labour Party leader Corbyn described her as “a person of good character who makes a positive contribution to our world”. Despite the character references, Chief Magistrate Paul Goldspring has found Webbe guilty of harassment. He said he did not find her evidence to be “truthful”, and said that “some of the things she said I believe were made up on the spur of the moment”.
Goldspring found Webbe to be “vague, incoherent and at times illogical”. The sentencing of Webbe has been adjourned to the 4th of November, though Webbe has been told that she could face prison charges. Webbe’s lawyers have said that she will appeal against the conviction.
Webbe says she is “deeply shocked” by the court proceedings and claims she is “innocent”. She also claims that she was a victim of domestic abuse and coercive control.
Merit has been a long term friend of Thomas and they had previously dated. Chief Magistrate Goldspring said he believed that Webbe threatened Merritt because she was “jealous” of Merritt’s friendly relationship with Thomas.
Now on unconditional bail, Webbe sits in the House of Commons as an independent MP, unaffiliated with the Labour Party.
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