Labour MP Claudia Webbe found guilty of harassment over calls to lover’s friend

Labour MP Claudia Webbe, 56, has been found guilty of harassing a female friend of her partner Lester Thomas.

Westminster Magistrates' Court heard she made a string of threatening calls to 59-year-old Michelle Merritt between September 1 2018 and April 26 last year because she was jealous of her friendship with her boyfriend.

The court was told that Leicester East representative Ms Webbe, 56, saw Ms Merritt, 59, as a love rival. She branded her “a slag” and threatened to send naked photos of her to her family.

Ms Webbe had become suspicious of Ms Merritt's relationship with her partner, Chelsea FC scout Lester Thomas, the prosecution said.

She could face a jail sentence amid calls to stand down from the Labour party.

Ms Merritt had reported the calls to police, saying: “She works for the Labour Party, she is in the public arena and she's accusing me of… in her words… ‘slagging around with her boyfriend,’ which I'm not.

“She's threatened to throw acid over me,” she added, “she knows where I live, she's going to send pictures of me and him to my daughters”.

Following the court’s verdict, Ms Webbe said she was "deeply shocked" at the outcome of the trial.

She told reporters: "I am innocent and will appeal this verdict. As I said in court and repeat now, I have never threatened violence nor have I ever harassed anyone.”

Speaking about a recording made of one of her calls to Ms Merritt she explained: “I felt no anger toward Michelle and I'm sorry for what that tape portrays because it's not my finest moment but it wasn't intended to cause Michelle any harm and it just is to me very embarrassing”.

Her lawyer, Raj Chada, head of criminal defence at social justice law firm Hodge Jones & Allen added: "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.”

Ms Webbe is a close ally of Jeremy Corbyn, and the former Labour leader provided a glowing character reference for her, saying she was a “warm-hearted person” with a deep dedication to social justice issues.

He wrote: “Claudia is a person who is very committed to ensuring justice is done, and is prepared to state uncomfortable truths when it matters”.

Former shadow chancellor John McDonnell added: 'In the most challenging situations I have witnessed her respond with sincerity and calm.'

Ms Webbe is currently sitting as an independent MP for Leicester East after being suspended by the Labour Party. The party explained that she had been suspended as a “neutral act” pending the outcome of legal proceedings.

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