MP Claudia Webbe, who continues to campaign for the Labour Party despite being suspended, has today been found guilty of issuing disturbing violent threats and making abusive phone calls to another woman.
Appearing in Westminster Magistrates’ court, Webbe, 56, was described as having been ‘obsessed’ and paranoid over the friendship between her boyfriend and victim Michelle Merritt.
Not only did Webbe 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.
“MP Claudia Webbe has been convicted of harassment after the Crown Prosecution Service showed she made a number of obsessive nuisance calls to a woman over an 18-month period” a statement released today by the CPS begins.
“Webbe, 56, was found guilty of harassment today (13 October) after Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard evidence she made numerous short, silent telephone calls from a withheld number, before hanging up.
“In March 2019 Webbe spoke to her victim, threatened to use acid against her, and threatened that naked photographs and videos of the victim would be shared. There is no suggestion the images were real.
“Despite being asked to stop by police she continued, making at least 15 further calls after April 2019.
“A final threatening call in April 2020 was recorded by the victim when Webbe again made the threat to release naked images, prompting police to interview her.
“Specialist Prosecutor Lisa Rose of the CPS Special Crime Division, said: “Claudia Webbe’s persistent nuisance behaviour caused considerable distress and alarm to her victim who became genuinely concerned for her safety.
“Webbe told police she did not appreciate the calls were unwanted or causing distress. However the prosecution case was that the police had issued her with a clear warning about her conduct.
“No-one should have to endure this sort of harassment. We are determined to bring perpetrators to justice and help protect victims.”
Webbe will face sentencing in November.
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