Woman harassed by Claudia Webbe wanted MP 'to be humiliated'

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

MP Claudia Webbe arrives at Southwark Crown Court for the beginning of appeal proceedings against her harassment conviction - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

The woman Claudia Webbe was found guilty of harassing over an 18-month period wanted the MP "to be humiliated", a court 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.

It was argued during those proceedings that Webbe's behaviour was driven by “obsession” and “jealousy” over her boyfriend Lester Thomas’ relationship with Ms Merritt.

During this period, it's alleged that the MP threatened Ms Merritt with acid and said she would send naked pictures and videos to her daughters.

Following conviction Webbe 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.

The appeal hearing continued at Southwark Crown Court today - May 25 - after getting under way last Thursday.

During those proceedings, evidence emerged which showed that Ms Merritt and Mr Thomas were having a casual sexual relationship between March 2017 and July 2020.

An examination of Ms Merritt’s phone - undertaken since the trial - revealed sexual messages between the pair which Webbe was unaware of.

The MP said she split up with Mr Thomas in March this year after learning of the messages.

Webbe's representative Helen Law suggested a “glaring omission” in Ms Merritt’s accounts.

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“I had not lied about having sex with Mr Thomas. No-one asked me in the magistrates’ court," she countered.

Ms Law further alleged that the complainant suggested she wasn't able to get in touch with Mr Thomas because “it would make it look worse for Ms Webbe”.

In response to the accusation that she made herself look like “a woman in fear”, Ms Merritt said: "I was afraid of Ms Webbe and what she threatened me with."

Webbe's counsel accused the complainant of being "nigh-on obsessed" with the MP, a claim she denied.

“No, I would say Ms Webbe was obsessed with me," she replied.

Ms Law continued: “You were prepared to lie to get what you want out of this situation, which is for Claudia Webbe to be humiliated.”

Ms Merritt said: “No, all I wanted was the calls to stop, the threats to stop.”

The complainant was also questioned on messages which appeared to show that she "contemplated" selling her story to the press. 

These was downplayed as "banter" by Ms Merritt, who stressed she had no real intention of doing so.

The appeal, which is being heard by Judge Deborah Taylor and two magistrates, continues.

Webbe 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.

The 57-year-old was a councillor for the Bunhill ward in Islington until May last year, a role she combined with her parliamentary duties.