Appeal hearing of MP Claudia Webbe gets under way

MP Claudia Webbe arrives at Southwark Crown Court, south London, where she is appealing against her

MP Claudia Webbe arrives at Southwark Crown Court today - May 19 - for the appeal hearing against her harassment conviction - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

MP Claudia Webbe was driven by "obsession" and "jealousy", an appeal against her harassment conviction has heard.

On October 13 last year, the 57-year-old was found guilty of harassing Michelle Merritt following a two-day trial at Westminster Magistrates’ Court.

She immediately vowed to appeal the verdict of Chief Magistrate Paul Goldspring, who handed the Leicester East MP a 10-week jail term -suspended for two years.

Those proceedings got under way at Southwark Crown Court today - May 19 - in front of Judge Deborah Taylor and two magistrates.

Opening the case, prosecutor Susannah Stevens said the reason for the harassment was Ms Merritt’s friendship with Webbe’s boyfriend Lester Thomas.

The court heard the campaign began with silent phone calls in September 2018, before the situation “escalated” on Mother's Day the following year as Webbe questioned why Ms Merritt was in touch with her partner.

“This appeared to be her obsession,” said Ms Stevens.

“The fact Ms Merritt should not be seeing or having contact with Lester Thomas.”

Ms Merritt said Webbe started calling her names, adding: “She called me a slag and a slut. (She said) ‘Stay away from Mr Thomas’ and ‘You’re a slag and you should be acid’."

She further alleged that Webbe also threatened to send naked pictures and videos to her daughters.

In one call recorded by the complainant, the MP is heard telling Ms Merritt to “get out of my relationship” some 11 times.

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Webbe maintained throughout that she only made “courtesy calls” to warn Ms Merritt not to breach coronavirus regulations by meeting Mr Thomas.

The appeal will continue on Wednesday next week.

Webbe entered the Commons in December 2019, winning the seat formerly held by Labour veteran Keith Vaz.

The 57-year-old currently sits as an independent MP after being ousted by the Labour Party, who has promised to push for a recall petition to force a by-election if she does not quit the Commons.

Webbe - of Islington - was a councillor for the Bunhill ward until May last year alongside her parliamentary duties.