Analysis Breaking News

Breaking: Met failed to disclose messages between Webbe’s accuser and partner/others in time for first trial

Messages appear extremely helpful to Webbe’s case but were not disclosed to defence until six months after harassment conviction

Claudia Webbe faced horrific abuse and murder plots as a result of the mainstream media’s misleading reporting of her original trial

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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  1. It’s unclear from the above, have the Met Police now disclosed evidence that they had previously hidden or have they simply disclosed evidence that has subsequently emerged.

      1. Please enlighten me.

        With pleasure. Hand me the paraffin and the matches…

    1. Two Cheeks
      They have disclosed evidence that Temporary Embarrassment is as bent as a nine bob note

      1. Doug – Is that your admission that you don’t know either?

    2. Hi Steve,

      As someone who works regularly with criminal defence lawyers, I can assure you that the police failing to disclose evidence to the defence that it was blatantly obvious they should disclose is so routine as not even to be worthy of comment. Occasionally it breaks through into the media, as in the case of Liam Allan.

      “The sorry tale behind the collapse of the trial of Liam Allan will come as no surprise to experienced criminal defence lawyers. It reveals widespread systemic failings in the disclosure process that legal practitioners have been warning of for some time.”

      In this case, there is no reason why the police would have obtained further evidence after Webbe’s convictions. It can only relate, as usual, to evidence that was in their hands at all material times.

      1. Ultraviolet – Everything you say about the problems with the fair administration of justice may well be true (the Tory party’s cuts have been savage) but in this particular case it has been clearly stated in court that the phone was examined by the police after the original court case. The reasons behind this will no doubt be examined and exposed.
        One does have to wonder though why on earth Claudia’s legal team didn’t notice that there was nothing in the disclosure about the evidence from Merrit’s phone and why they failed to seek any assurances from the police that they had examined her phone and that there was no relevant evidence on the accusers phone.
        I don’t think any of us are in a position at the moment, to make any claims about what prompted the police to examine this phone in the run up to the appeal, hopefully this will all come out in due course. Perhaps we should reflect that whatever the reason it was a good thing that someone in the police (perhaps belatedly) took the decision to do this.

      2. Steve,

        I note that in the more recent article on this case, it says, “The court also heard that Merritt did not mention anything in the original magistrate’s trial about her sexual relationship with Thomas even though, when detectives told her they had been downloaded, she told them that she thought they had already been used there.”

        It appears that the police had the phone – hence Merrit assumed the messages were already in evidence in the Magistrates Court – but they did not check the messages on it or disclose them. That would be a breach of their disclosure obligations.

        While I can’t speak to this case, I am aware of a number of others where the defence expressly asked for particular items of evidence under the disclosure rules, were told that there was no such evidence, or that it was not disclosable because it did not help the defence or undermine the prosecution, and it is only when the defence makes a formal application for a court order that this egregiously unlawful behaviour is uncovered. In one case I had personal knowledge of, the judge expressed fury that, in his words, “yet again” the police had failed to disclose obviously disclosable material.

        What we know of this case so perfectly fits this regular pattern that, even though I don’t have explicit knowledge of it, I would be astonished if this is not the usual problem repeated yet again.

    3. It was clear from various pieces of testimony, as well as the fact that Merritt was repeatedly asked by the defence barrister why she hadn’t changed her story when she knew her phone had been downloaded, that the evidence was in police possession before the original trial…

      1. SW – It may have been obvious to you, you had the privilege of being in court. However it has been reported by numerous other news outlets that the prosecution/police clearly stated to the court that the phone wasn’t examined until after the original court case and that this was disclosed to the defence back in March.
        I’m guessing that these basic facts are accurate. Whether the actual claim about the discovery was accurate or not is a different matter but it would certainly be a very big deal if the Met and/or the prosecution had directly lied to the court. Hopefully everything will become clearer in the next few days.

      2. Steve, I wish it would be a big deal if the police lied to the court, but it actually happens all the time. To take a minor example, a friend of mine observed two consecutive motoring cases involving the same officer. If he had been where he said he was for the first case, he could not have been where he claimed to have been in the second one. Yet both drivers were convicted by the (same) Magistrates.

        And in one of the cases I was thinking of when posting my previous message, the police had a statement from Person A, saying their friend Person C had committed the assault person B was accused of. In Person B’s trial, the police resisted disclosing the statement all the way to a formal order from the judge. There is no way that the police could have believed in good faith that a statement saying someone else committed the offence was not relevant and disclosable.

        But despite all these numerous examples, no consequences ever flow for the police.

    4. Reply to Steve H
      The prosecution has a legal duty to disclose all relevant info to the defence and vice versa. If either party deliberately withholds evidence it can be held to be in contempt of court. If a conviction results charges of perverting the course of justice can be brought. This is all serious stuff so I assume the prosecution will say that the failure to provide full disclosure was due to an error on the part of the police.

  2. The smell of institutional racism within the MET is reaching my nostrils. Wonder if the MET would have withheld these messages if the case has involved a white woman MP and her accuser had been a black woman.

    1. Maria – Did the Met Police withhold this evidence, I see no evidence of this in the above article?

      1. SteveH, at the very least the MET didn’t look hard enough.
        Assuming that you are right (no sure you are) Why did it take so long for the MET to find these messages? Surely the MET must have confiscated the phones from the very beginning?
        Why bring charges against a seating MP without waiting to evaluate all the evidence available?
        I am sorry but in my opinion racism was at play in this case and now the MET has decided to make these messages available trying to escape criticism as it their is a strong likelihood that they would have been discovered through other sources..
        I maybe wrong of course but, their isn’t a way that the MET can prove that I am wrong. Another nail in the coffin for race relations and the MET

      1. goldbach – Are you trying to claim that the reports that I have quoted are untrue. If so do you have any credible evidence to support your assertions.
        You are making yourself look a little bit silly.

  3. “The Metropolitan Police withheld hundreds, perhaps thousands, of messages” ….. “yet (they) were only disclosed to her in March this year”.
    What’s so difficult to understand?
    You can’t withhold something you don’t already have.

    1. goldbach – Perhaps things aren’t quite as clear cut as you suggest.

      The following was published in today’s Islington Gazette
      The appeal hearing continued at Southwark Crown Court today – May 25 – after getting under way last Thursday.
      During those proceedings, evidence emerged which showed that Ms Merritt and Mr Thomas were having a casual sexual relationship between March 2017 and July 2020.
      An examination of Ms Merritt’s phone – undertaken since the trial – revealed sexual messages between the pair which Webbe was unaware of.
      The MP said she split up with Mr Thomas in March this year after learning of the messages.

      1. Are you saying that Skwawkbox gave a false account of the court proceedings?

      2. goldbach – You’re the one who is making the wild accusations, not me. I very clearly stated that the above article is unclear on this point. I made no accusations, on the contrary I asked for clarification. (which I subsequently found elsewhere).
        Are you claiming that the report in the Islington Gazette is untrue?
        Here is a similar report from the BBC.
        “The court heard Ms Merritt’s phone had been examined by police since the trial, revealing sexual messages between her and Lester Thomas.”

    1. Putin started this, his ridiculous Imperialist ambitions don’t appear to have gone quite as well as he’d hoped.

      1. Clearly not even bothered to read Chris Hedges’ piece, have you?
        It’s about the US. Russia is only mentioned in passing.
        Still, why pass up the chance to trot out one of the stock comments?

      2. goldbach – The opening sentence of the article that you linked to is
        “The United States, as the near unanimous vote to provide nearly $40 billion in aid to Ukraine illustrates, is trapped in the death spiral of unchecked militarism.

      3. Not even a good try, this time.
        The first three words, as you may have noticed, are “The United States”. That’s unsurprising, since the article is about the US, though I would guess that you didn’t bother reading it. It’s actually about US militarism and the powerful influence of the arms industry while any form of public provision deteriorates.
        Try reading the whole lot rather than one sentence.
        Oh, and as for making oneself look a bit silly, I wouldn’t dream of trying to usurp your position in that regard.

      4. Nonsense Steve H once again you follow your leader.Do you realise just how disordered the minds are of the people you support.Proxy wars,sanctions of a type never seen before even in the days of the apparthied SAfrika.Forty billion and more that ordinary people in the USA need desperately.Billions from Britain whilst your mates party time politicians celebrate and the working class suffer.Not content with that you and your scummy world order sail to the other side of the planet looking for wars in the S.China sea.Some allies you lot pick?Japanese imperialist forces and Mad max Aussies teamed up with a senile old molester and a drunken public schoolboy…thats your politics nowadays and heading for a world war and one neither side can win..You have no understanding of the type of people you have picked a fight with but you are not safe even in the Caribbean bolt hole from the obliteration of humanity.and it can happen so very very easily..I cannot remember a time when so little understanding of just how unprepared for war Britain is and its clear that none of the clowns in parliament have a clue either.We had a leader who could have led on this madness and you set about to destroy him and his friends and now what?The whole of the Balkans has returned to being a plaything of the wealthy and powerful and encouraged by idiots like you.who have no understanding of history,religion or culture..This stinking mess is about to destroy us all.

  4. Major malfunction’s having a bit of a ‘mare again, demonstrating beyond doubt he’s far too thick to understand why.

    Decided yet, just what it was that those schools wanted you to teach? 😙🎶

  5. To get back to Ms Webbe and the phone
    messages being withheld – I have read
    numerous previous cases in the MSM of
    this happening and I agree that racism is
    the likely reason here.

    However I cannot understand the defence
    not spotting that this had happened – it was
    surely blindingly obvious that texts and
    messages on the “victims” phone would be
    crucial for their client.

    1. How would they know there was anything to spot?
      If you don’t know that someone has sent messages that would be useful to your case, you can’t raise the matter.
      If you think it’s possible that messages have been sent that might be useful to you, and the police have the phone and don’t tell you about the messages, what do you do?
      Maybe someone could tell me – isn’t it the duty of the police to disclose all evidence they have to the defence?

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