Messages appear extremely helpful to Webbe’s case but were not disclosed to defence until six months after harassment conviction
The Metropolitan Police withheld hundreds, perhaps thousands, of messages between the woman who accused left-wing MP Claudia Webbe of harassment and Webbe’s partner and others that appear overwhelmingly helpful to Webbe’s case – yet were only disclosed to her in March this year, six months after Webbe’s conviction in a magistrate’s court on a single count of harassment. Webbe’s appeal hearing was then delayed from March until now.
In evidence that has only now been freed from reporting restrictions imposed by the appeal court judge, the court heard that messages, including ongoing explicit exchanges between Michelle Merritt and Lester Thomas and others showing Merritt – who was allowed to give evidence from behind a curtain during the appeal – joking about humiliating Webbe with friends, had been downloaded by the police from Ms Merritt’s mobile phone, but Webbe told a court today that she had known nothing about them before March, at which point she ended her relationship with Thomas, which had continued despite his affair with Merritt and Merritt’s accusations.
The appeal court judge also ordered enquiries to be made after Merritt’s friend Gill Smith testified under cross-examination that a Met detective spoke to her about the newly-revealed messages in the witness-care room last week – despite the judge’s order that there must be no conversations about the existence of the chat messages until after she, Merritt and the police detective had finished their cross-examinations by Claudia Webbe’s barrister, Helen Law.
Webbe’s former boss, right-wing Labour leader Keir Starmer, and the Labour party provided no support to Webbe during the initial trial and fell over themselves in haste to expel her from the party after the conviction, despite the fact that they knew she had lodged an appeal. Starmer is a former Director of Public Prosecutions.
Even in the most charitable interpretation of the facts, the police failed to disclose evidence to an accused MP that would have undermined their case against her – and the likelihood that the Met actively withheld evidence in a high-profile criminal case is a deeply worrying one.
More detail on the revelations of these explosive new disclosures will follow shortly. The Met has been approached for comment.
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