'Callous' Claudia Webbe gets suspended sentence after harassment conviction

4 November 2021, 18:11

By Will Taylor

Claudia Webbe has been sentenced to 10 weeks in custody, suspended for two years.

The 56-year-old, who represents Leicester East, and has been ordered to do 200 hours of unpaid work after being found guilty of harassment.

Chief Magistrate Paul Goldspring said her behaviour was "callous and intimidatory".

Webbe was convicted of harassing Michelle Merritt, a long term friend of her partner, Lester Thomas, by threatening to throw acid in her face and release naked images of the victim.

The court was told Webbe's conduct left Ms Merritt feeling unsafe, taking taxis to and from work and leading her to consider moving home.

Read more: MP Claudia Webbe found guilty of harassing partner's female friend

Ms Merritt, reading a victim impact statement with a screen to block her from seeing the politician, said: "She (Webbe) has made me feel very vulnerable, in public, in my own home. I was scared to go to my door.

"I had many sleepless nights. I would like to feel safe again.

"Due to Ms Webbe's position… I don't know what she is capable of."

Merritt's voice broke with emotion as she said she worried Webbe would "seriously harm" her. She added: "My self confidence has plummeted, I have anxiety attacks, I have almost become a hermit.

"I have fallen into huge debt, I desperately wanted to move away from the area Ms Webbe said she knew I lived in."

She added: "I am so very proud I have had the strength to continue because no woman should be threatened or harassed the way she has to me over the years, least of all a politician."

Mr Goldspring said: "You were jealous of the relationship between Lester Thomas and Michelle Merritt, and probably felt in some way threatened by it."

He said Webbe "showed little remorse or contrition" and would have been jailed immediately were it not for her previous good character.

Mr Hynes, for Webbe, said his client had received threats of violence and racist comments on social media, and that she had been subjected to "extraordinary vilification", with Mr Goldspring saying online comments can be "quite disgusting".

But he said he found it "odd and concerning" the probation service report said Webbe felt like a victim herself and said he counted four occasions Webbe called herself "the victim" during her testimony at trial.

In a statement after sentencing, Webbe said: "I am very disappointed by the decision of the magistrate and want to strongly reiterate that I am innocent.

"I am lodging an appeal and despite today's sentence I fully expect the appeal to be granted and that, ultimately, it will be successful.

"Throughout this process I have received numerous threats to my life and vile racist abuse.

"The cowards responsible for these attacks will not deter me from clearing my name. "I want to thank constituents, family, friends and my comrades in the Labour movement for their support and solidarity, and to my legal team for their professionalism during this process."