CLAUDIA Webbe appeared in court today charged with making a series of harassing phone calls and disturbing threats.
The MP had been released on unconditional bail after the Metropolitan Police supplied evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service detailing claims of harassment between 1st September 2018 and 26th April 2020.
Appearing in Westminster Magistrates’ court today, Webbe, 56, was described as having been ‘obsessed’ and paranoid over the friendship between her boyfriend and Michelle Merritt.
Not only did Webbe allegedly threaten to attack Ms Merritt with acid, but the Leicester MP also threatened to reveal naked photographs and videos she supposedly had of Merritt to her family – including directly threatening to send the images to her children.
Susannah Stevens, prosecuting, said: “The reason for the harassment appeared to be the fact that Ms Merritt was friends with Lester Thomas and this was an issue for the defendant, Ms Webbe.
“The harassment initially took the form of telephone calls that were made by Ms Webbe to Ms Merritt.”
Made from a withheld number, the calls were silent and of a short duration, the court was told. They tended to occur when Merritt was with Thomas.
Stevens said: “When [Merritt] answered the call, the person on the other end would not respond and would then hang up.”
In October 2018 , Merritt received a call from a number that could be seen. She put the number into the search engine Google, and discovered it belonged to Webbe, the court was told.
“She saw this because the number was available on the internet because Claudia Webbe is a Labour MP and the phone number appears on Labour literature and also a Leicester council website.”
A friend of Merritt asked Webbe to refrain from making calls, but on 31 March 2019, the harassment escalated, the court was told, when she spoke to Merritt.
“Indeed, the crown say that Claudia Webbe was in such a state during this call that not only did she query the nature of the contact and refuse to accept that Ms Merritt and Lester Thomas were just friends. She then went on to say that Ms Merritt was a ‘slag’ and she should ‘be acid’,” Stevens said.
“The defendant further threatened Ms Merritt that naked photographs and videos of her would be sent to Ms Merritt’s children.
“The court will hear that Michelle was, perhaps not surprisingly, caused considerable distress by this call,” Stevens said.
Ms Merritt told the court she had known Mr Thomas for more than 15 years and that they were both “good friends”, having previously dated.
“There was a pattern that whenever I had even met with Lester Thomas, if we had gone out for a drink or something, there would be a phone call,” she said, giving evidence from behind a screen.
“When you are being called and no-one answers, it’s unnerving, especially as a woman who lives alone.”
Merritt told the court that, on the first occasion of harassment, Webbe said: ‘You’re a slag and you should be acid’.
“She [Webbe] confirmed she knew where I lived and would send pictures and videos to my daughters” she added.
The trial continues. VoteWatch will provide a further update later today.