MP Claudia Webbe faces potential jail time and asks to step down after being convicted campaign of harassment, including threats of an acid attack.
Webbe, Independent MP for Leicester East, elected candidateLabor Party in 2019 but whose party whip was removed, was accused of harassing Michelle Merritt, a friend of her partner, with threatening phone calls. The lawsuit heard she called Merritt slag, threatened to "use acid" and said she would distribute nude photos of Merritt to her family.
To Following the guilty verdict and a warning from the judge that she could face jail time, Labor has asked Webbe to leave her seat, which would trigger a by-election. Webbe protested her innocence and made it clear that she plans to continue as an MP.
"As I prepare for the call, I want to assure the people of Leicester East that I will continue to defend them in parliament, to fight on their behalf, ”she said.
Webbe, a close ally of Jeremy Corbyn, was elected Labor MP for Leicester East with a 6,019 majority, but the whip was removed last year after being indicted.
She denied that she was harassed between September 1, 2018 and April 26, 2020, but after a two-day trial, District Chief Justice Paul Goldspring declared her guilty.
"I find she was jealous of the relationship between Lester [Thomas, her partner] and Michelle. Whatever the nature of this relationship, she certainly thought it was something she was not happy with, ”he said. “I found Ms. Webbe's testimony to be vague, inconsistent and at times illogical. It was fashioned around the overwhelming evidence against her she couldn't innocently answer, but eventually I found it to be wrong. "
He said his conduct towards Merritt was"oppressive and was designed to be ”. "In particular, threatening to send intimate photographs to his family and " using acid "is in my opinion the best evidence of intent.
He postponed the sentence to November 4 and released Webbe, 56, on unconditional bail, but warned she risked jail.
A Labor spokesperson said:" Labor strongly condemns Claudia Webbe's actions and she should step down now.
During the trial, Paul Hynes QC, in defense, read a series of character references from figures such as Corbyn, former ghost chancellor John McDonnell and former Shadow Secretary of State Diane Abbott.
Webbe is a former president of Operation Trident, which was created in response shootings disproportionately affecting black people in London. She wascouncilor in Islington between 2010 and 2018 and was a member of the national executive committee of Labor.
She entered the House of Commons in December 2019, winning the seat previously held by Keith Vaz, the former Minister of Labor who retired from parliament following a scandal involving cocaine and sex workers. Last month an official report found Vaz had engaged in "unpleasant and sustained intimidation" of a member of parliamentary staff.
If Webbe is sentenced to Imprisonment of less than a year and his appeal fails, a revocation petition would be triggered in his circumion. To provoke a by-election, 10% of the electorate within the circonion wou I have to sign the petition.
Vaz told The Guardian last month that he would not be running as a Labor candidate for Leicester East but it is known to still have some support among the executive and party voters in the circumion.
Westminster court has heard that Webbe had made a series of unwanted calls to Merritt. Merritt told the court that the calls, most of which came from masked phone numbers, had left her "worried and pissed off." "When you are called and no one answers, it gets on your nerves, especially as a woman who lives alone," she said.
After Merritt received a call on Mother's Day in 2019, in which Webbe identified herself, she decided to contact the police.telling them: ', which I am not. She threatened to throw acid at me, she knows where I live, she will send pictures of me and him to my daughters. "
Police spoke to Webbe and Merritt and requested that contact cease, the court said. But on April 25 of last year, Merritt received two calls, both lasting eight seconds. and from the same number. Merritt told the court: "I just hung up really quickly. I didn't want to talk to him.
" [Having received these two calls] I had to somehow prove that she was calling me because until that date all calls had not been identified caller and the first threat call was not recorded ... so I called back the number that was on my phone. "
In the recording, performed in court, Webbe answered the phone and shouted at Merritt: "Why are you still meddling with Lester?" Why why? He's not your friend, he's with me and I don't want you to be in touch with me, I don't want you to be in touch with him. "
Webbe yelled " get out of my relationship "11 times, according to the recording. She also said: " I've seen all your posts, I've seen all your pictures naked, I've seen all of your relationships with Lester. If not, I'll tell your whole family about it and show them all of your photos. "
Witnessing last month, Webbe, of Islington, denied the harassment, saying she made "courtesy calls " to warn Merritt not to break the coronavirus rules by meeting Thomas.
Asked if she had threatened Merritt, Webbe told the court: " I have spent my life advocating for women's rights, challenging this kind of behavior. This doesn 'tis not something that is in my character and it 's not something that I would ever do. "
After the verdict, Webbe stated that She was "deeply shocked ". "I am innocent and I will appeal this verdict. As I said in court and I repeat now, I have never threatened violence and I have never harassed anyone, "she said.
Her lawyer, Raj Chada, added: " We will appeal of this unfair verdict. The recording of Ms. Webbe's call has been taken out of context. We are sure that Ms. Webbe will be justified on appeal. "