Claudia Webbe Handed Suspended 10-Week Jail Sentence For Harassment

The independent MP will also have to undertake 200 hours of community service.
Claudia Webbe was first elected to parliament as a Labour MP in the 2019 general election.
Claudia Webbe was first elected to parliament as a Labour MP in the 2019 general election.
Jonathan Brady - PA Images via Getty Images

Claudia Webbe, the MP for Leicester East, has been handed a suspended 10-week jail sentence and 200 hours’ community service at Westminster Magistrates’ Court after being convicted of harassment.

Webbe, who was elected as a Labour MP in 2019 and was a close ally of Jeremy Corbyn, was found guilty of harassment following a trial at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in October.

The court heard how Webbe, who now sits as an independent, threatened to use acid against her boyfriend’s female friend.

The MP made a string of threatening calls to 59-year-old Michelle Merritt between September 1 2018 and April 26 last year because she was jealous of her friendship with Lester Thomas.

There has been pressure on Webbe to resign from the Commons since the guilty verdict, a move that would trigger a by-election in the seat.

Prosecutor Susannah Stevens said the offending was “persistent … and over a prolonged period”.

She told the court that Webbe’s conduct caused psychological harm and distress to Merritt, whom she said had to “make changes to her life” — including getting taxis to and from work due to feeling unsafe.

She also considered moving home, the court heard.

Reading her victim personal statement from behind a curtain Merritt said Webbe made her feel “very vulnerable, in public, in my own home. I was scared to go to my door.”

“I had many sleepless nights,” she continued. “I would like to feel safe again.

“Due to Ms Webbe’s position in government (sic), I don’t know what she is capable of.”

Merritt said Webbe’s actions had caused her self confidence to plummet and that she now had 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.

“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.”

But Paul Hynes QC, defending, said Webbe had been subjected to “extraordinary vilification”, including threats of violence on social media and racist comments.

“The police have received, October 18, a telephone call from a man threatening a female MP. It was considered the target of that call was Ms Webbe,” he said.

Webbe sits in the Commons as an independent after being suspended by the Labour Party over the case.

She was expelled from the party upon sentence, a Labour spokesman confirmed. It is understood the expulsion process began when she was convicted.

Labour said it would push for a recall petition to force a by-election if Webbe did not quit the Commons.

The sentence means Webbe will face a recall petition, which could trigger a by-election if at least 10% of her constituents support it.

However, the process would have to wait until the outcome of any appeal by Webbe against her conviction, an avenue she said she is pursuing.

In a statement following sentence, 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.”