Claudia Webbe will receive back balance of compensation magistrate ordered her to pay to Michelle Merritt
The judge at MP Claudia Webbe’s appeal at Southwark Crown Court against her conviction on a single count of harassment has reduced the sentence imposed on Webbe by a magistrate last year. Webbe’s appeal failed even though the judge accepted that her accuser had lied extensively.
The judge told Ms Webbe that at the time of the offence she was ‘clearly under great stress’ and noted that the evidence before the appeal court differed considerably from what was presented to the magistrate – hundreds of messages the police had downloaded from Michelle Merritt’s phone had not been released to the defence until March this year. The judge said that taking that evidence, the extensive character references provided for Ms Webb and the fact that the Crown had accepted the new evidence was mitigation, she considered that the sentence imposed had been too harsh:
Had the magistrate known what we know, the sentence would have been considerably different,
and that this included the fact that the impact Merritt claimed the interaction had on her relationship with Merritt was proven by the new messages to have been a lie.
The judge decided that, contrary to the prosecution’s request to classify the offence as a ‘Category A’ offence, she found it to be a Category B3 case, with a maximum low-level community order and level B fine:
In all the circumstances we find that appropriate sentence was community service of 80 hours. As you’ve already done more than this there will be no further penalty.
The judge also said compensation should be only £50 and ordered that the remainder of the original £1,000 penalty to be returned to Ms Webbe. No costs were awarded against her.
The judge’s decision will be some tiny measure of comfort to Claudia Webbe in a case that many believe should never have come to court and should have been abandoned by the Crown Prosecution Service the moment the existence of extensive withheld evidence was known. Webbe received horrific racial abuse and was targeted for murder by two men as a result of the media’s misreporting of the case and Labour’s lack of support, in particular concerning the supposed acid threat which the appeal judge said had no substance whatever.
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