MP Claudia Webbe loses appeal over conviction for harassing love rival

Former Labour MP who threatened woman with acid found guilty for second time

<p>MP Claudia Webbe arrives at Southwark Crown Court</p>

MP Claudia Webbe arrives at Southwark Crown Court

MP Claudia Webbe has lost an appeal against her conviction for harassing a woman who was having an affair with her boyfriend – including threatening her with acid.

The 57-year-old, who represents her Leicester East constituency as an independent after being expelled from the Labour Party, targeted Michelle Merritt, 59, between September 2018 and April 2020.

Prosecutors said the 18-month harassment campaign was driven by “obsession” and “jealousy” over her boyfriend Lester Thomas’s relationship with executive assistant Ms Merritt.

The victim told Southwark Crown Court how Webbe sent her a message reading “You’re a slag and should be acid,” and threatened to reveal naked photographs to her family in a string of phone calls.

Webbe, a former adviser to the National Police Chiefs’ Council on firearms, was found guilty of harassment by chief magistrate Paul Goldspring and handed a 10-week suspended jail sentence following a trial at Westminster magistrates’ court last year.

Now, following a hearing at Southwark Crown Court, she has been again found guilty by Judge Deborah Taylor and two magistrates.

The MP, who was elected in 2019, appealed against her harassment conviction and 10-week suspended jail sentence.

The court heard Ms Merritt’s phone revealed sexual messages between her and Mr Thomas, a consultant at Crossrail, football coach, and scout for Chelsea.

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

“I had no idea about the relationship between Michelle Merritt and Lester Thomas, that this relationship had been going on throughout the entire time of my relationship with Lester,” she said.

Giving evidence from behind a screen, Ms Merritt admitted having sex with Mr Thomas, whom she described as a “narcissist who likes attention”, between March 2017 and July 2020.

In one phone call recorded by Ms Merritt, Webbe was heard saying: “I have seen all of your naked pictures. Get out of my relationship otherwise I will tell your whole family and show them all of your pictures.”

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