Former Labour MP Claudia Webbe Has Been Found Guilty Of Harassment
Leicester East MP Claudia Webbe arrives at Westminster Magistrates Court (Alamy)
Leicester East MP Claudia Webbe — who was suspended from the Labour Party in September — has been found guilty of harassment at Westminster Magistrates Court.
The 56-year-old was accused of making a series of phone calls harassing Michelle Merritt, a female friend of her partner Lester Thomas, between September 1 2018 and April 26 2020.
She will be sentenced on 4 November and could face a custodial sentence. Webbe has said she will continue to serve as an MP while she prepares an appeal to today's verdict.
The Labour Party has called for Webbe to resign following the verdict. A spokesperson said: “The Labour Party strongly condemns Claudia Webbe’s actions and she should now resign.”
The court heard that Webbe called the victim in March 2019 and threatened to release intimate photos of her, use acid against her, and called her a "slag".
Evidence showed that the MP made numerous short, silent telephone calls from a withheld number, before hanging up.
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.
The now-independent MP had the Labour whip withdrawn after the charges were brought against her in September this year.
Webbe entered the Commons in December 2019 with a majority of 6,019, winning the Leicester East seat formerly held by Labour veteran Keith Vaz.
She has previously denied all claims of harassment.
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's lawyer, Raj Chada, head of criminal defence at social justice law firm Hodge Jones & Allen said: “We will be appealing this unjust verdict. The recording of the call Ms Webbe made has been taken out of context. We are sure that Ms Webbe will be vindicated at an appeal.”
Webbe said she was "deeply shocked" by the verdict, adding that she has "never threatened violence nor have I ever harassed anyone".
"I would like to thank all those who have supported me through this ordeal and continue to do so These are the people who know me; my character, my values and my behaviour — they know I could not be guilty of this crime and I intend proving them right."
“While I’m preparing for the appeal I want to assure the people of Leicester East that I will continue to stand up for them in Parliament, fighting on their behalf," she said.
Under current rules, a recall petition is automatically triggered if an MP recieves a custodial sentence. A by-election is only called if more than 10% of her constituents add their signature.
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