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A Leicester East MP who threatened to dump acid on an alleged love rival and said he would send nude photos of her to her family has been found guilty of stalking.
Claudia Webbe, 56, made a series of threatening calls to Michelle Merritt, 59, between Sept. 1, 2018 and April 26 of last year, as heard at trial.
She carried out the harassment campaign after suspecting Merritt’s relationship with her partner Lester Thomas, a Chelsea FC scout.
Chief Justice Paul Goldspring announced the guilty verdict Wednesday afternoon following a trial in Westminster Magistrates Court.
Condemning Webbe, he said: ‘I do not find the accused to be convincing, convincing and truthful in all aspects of her evidence.wikipedia
I think some of the things she said were made up on the spur of the moment.
He added: “In short, I find Ms. Webbe to be vague, incoherent and sometimes illogical … and ultimately I find her false.”
Goldspring postponed sentencing until Nov. 4 and released Webbe on unconditional bail, but warned her that she could face jail time.
“Threatening to throw acid on someone and send intimate photographs of family members crosses the threshold of custody,” she said.
A party spokesman said the Labor Party “strongly condemns Webbe’s actions and that she should now resign.”
Following the verdict, Webbe said she was’ deeply shocked ‘by the outcome of the trial, adding:’ I am innocent and will appeal this verdict.
“As I said in court and I repeat now, I have never threatened violence or harassed anyone.”
Her attorney, Raj Chada, chief of criminal defense at the social justice law firm Hodge Jones & Allen, said: ‘We will appeal this unfair verdict.
“The recording of the call made by Ms Webbe has been taken out of context. We are confident that Ms. Webbe will be justified on appeal. ”
Webbe is currently an independent MP from Leicester East after being suspended by the Labor Party.
The guilty verdict came despite glowing character references provided by a handful of her former party mates today.
Leicester East MP Claudia Webbe has been found guilty of harassment after threatening to throw acid over a suspected love rival
Former party leader Jeremy Corbyn had described her as a “good-hearted person” who is particularly “dedicated” to social justice issues.
He wrote: ‘Claudia is a person who is very committed to ensuring justice is served and she is willing to speak uncomfortable truths when it matters.
“I have the utmost respect and trust in her, and as someone who has known her well for many years, I have no hesitation in recommending her as a person of good character, making an important contribution to our world.”
Meanwhile, former shadow chancellor John McDonnell wrote: ‘I know that she is an honest, responsible and extremely caring person.
‘In everything she does about her, Claudia shows her empathy and emotional understanding. Claudia will always go the extra mile to help someone.
She “she has demonstrated, both as a trade unionist representing her members and as a member of parliament representing her constituents, that she has that human quality that allows her to relate to others, understand her concerns and gain her trust. .
She “She is meticulous in her behavior, always polite and respectful and mature in her judgment. In the most challenging situations, I’ve seen her respond honestly and calmly. ‘
Last month, Ms. Merritt told the court that calls from her deputy made her feel “worried and nervous.”
She said: ‘When they call you and there is no one to answer, she makes you nervous, especially as a woman living alone.
We have all seen the movies. You don’t know who is calling you, who is watching you. ‘
When Ms. Merritt received a call on Mother’s Day 2019, in which Ms. Webbe identified herself, she decided to call the police.
Ms Merritt told the call manager: ‘I was with my daughter celebrating Mother’s Day at the time, but now that is gone and reality just hit me.
‘She works for the Labor Party, she’s in the public arena and accuses me, in her words, of’ hanging around with her boyfriend ‘, which I’m not.
“She threatened to give me acid, she knows where I live, she is going to send pictures of him and me to my daughters.”
Police officers spoke to Webbe and Ms. Merritt in hopes that this was the end, the court heard.
But on April 25 of last year, Merritt received two calls, both eight seconds long and both from the same number.
Ms. Merritt told the court: ‘I just hung up really fast. He didn’t want to talk to her.
‘[Having received those two calls] I had to somehow prove that she was calling me because up to that date all calls had been without caller ID and the first threatening call was not registered … so I called the number that it was on my phone. ‘
In the recording, played on the court, Webbe answers the phone and immediately begins yelling at Merritt.
Webbe says, ‘Why do you keep meddling and contacting Lester? Because, why?
‘He is not your friend, he is with me and I don’t want you to be in contact with me, I don’t want you to be in contact with him.
In the background, Mr. Thomas, Webbe’s partner, can be heard yelling, ‘Don’t listen to her, text me whenever you want.
Michelle, hang up the phone and call the police.
Webbe yells, ‘Lester, why don’t you go live with her? Take all of her and go live with her!
Ms. Merritt asks why Webbe keeps calling her, but Webbe yells, ‘Can you stop? Can you get out of my relationship, get out of my relationship?
Get out of my relationship!
‘I’ve seen all your posts, I’ve seen all your nude photos, I’ve seen your entire relationship with Lester. Get out of my relationship!
“Otherwise, I’ll tell your whole family and show them all your photos.”
In giving evidence last month, Webbe admitted that he called Merritt on April 25 because she and Thomas had “repeatedly violated lockdown rules” by meeting.
Ms. Webbe and Mr. Thomas is currently an independent MP from Leicester East after being suspended by the Labor Party.
“I couldn’t go, and Lester went ahead and headed to St. Lucia and he had a picture of himself when I’d say he was naked from the waist up. He or his family had taken that photo and therefore he wanted to know who had taken it.
“ He was not sincere with whom he had taken the photo. He was naked from the waist up.
She added: ‘My partner was goading and cheating on me. He knew we were in a house. He knew what he was doing. He knew he was holding my arm. He knew he was telling her to stop.
“It’s about denial, incitement, deception, and coercive control.”
Webbe continued: ‘I was mad at Lester. My anger was directed at Lester. She [Ms. Merritt] called me in the middle of this discussion that she was having with Lester.
“ She called me and asked her to get out of my relationship while continuing an argument with Lester that had gotten out of hand and is probably one of the worst arguments I’ve ever had.
“I have never received a call from a neighbor regarding domestic abuse where they leave me screaming and my phone breaks at the end.”
She added: ‘I did not feel angry towards Michelle and I am sorry about what that tape portrays because it is not my best moment, but it was not intended to cause Michelle any harm and it is just very embarrassing to me.’
“It’s not something I want to repeat … I just hope we never go there again.”
Webbe entered the House of Commons in December 2019, winning the seat previously held by Keith Vaz, the Labor veteran who retired from Parliament in the wake of a scandal.
She was a councilor in Islington from 2010 to 2018 and was a member of the ruling National Executive Committee of the Labor Party.
Early in her career, she was a political advisor to then-London Mayor Ken Livingstone.
Claudia Webbe Quick and Facts
- Claudia Webbe, 56, made threatening calls to Michelle Merritt, 59, a trial heard
- She became suspicious of Ms Merritt’s relationship with partner Lester Thomas
- Ms Webbe is sitting as an independent MP after suspension from Labour Party
- Verdict was announced today following a trial at Westminster Magistrates’ Court
- Labour Party said it ‘strong condemns’ her actions and ‘she should now resign’