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Breaking: appeal judge reduces Webbe sentence because of accuser’s lies and withheld evidence

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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  1. In the circumstances this is quite a good outcome. How will the removal of the prison sentence impact on the attempts to unseat her.

    1. As Claudia’s suspended sentence has now been quashed it means that she can’t be forced out by a recall petition. Unless she chooses to resign there is no chance of a by election

  2. This reduction in sentence is small comfort to Claudia. Her accuser is known to be a vindictive liar but despite this Claudia’s guilty verdict stands. Disgraceful but of course as I posted previously she is a black Socialist female so the outcome should come as no surprise to anyone.

  3. A Salomonic judgement that still leaves Claudia Webbe stranded.
    I doubt Starmer will restore the whip to her or admit her back in the Labour Party as she has still been found guilty of a criminal offence.
    The MET has a lot to answer for, I still believe that if Webbe has been a white woman MP with a white partner and the accuser has been a black woman this case would have never see a Court room.
    I hope that the MET is now prepared to bring charges against Merrit for committing perjury in a criminal case and that the judge hearing the case considers passing on Merrit a 3 month suspended jail sentence.
    It doesn’t appear fair for Webbe to have a criminal record over this affair and from Merrit to escape with only having to repay Webbe £2000 that were paid to her by Webbe to start with.

    1. Christopher Fox, I wouldn’t advice Webbe to sue the Met or even Merrit. The cynic in me believes that this judgement is destine to protect the MET from such eventuality. Webbe has been still found guilty of a criminal offence at the Court of Appeal.
      What Webbe and the rest of us can do is to bring pressure on the MET to bring a case against Merrit for perjury, after the judge commented on her “lying extensively” while passing sentence.
      Perjury is a criminal offence and Merrit in my opinion deserves a criminal record for her efforts in destroying Claudia Webbe.

  4. Not as good as I had hoped, but better than I had expected given our arcane legal system.
    Two things need to happen now.
    1. A police investigation into what the judge clearly believed was a case of perjury.
    2. An independent investigation into the conduct of the Metropolitan Police regarding the case. Michael Mansfield would do a thorough job.
    As for Ms Webbe, I have great sympathy for her, as would anyone who has ever been in a “challenging” relationship.
    There will, however, be no such feeling on the LP front bench because she’s not one of their crowd.

  5. Grounds for further appeal
    Too often the can is kicked down the road when something rotten is unearthed

  6. Doug, I am not sure about the British legal process. But theoretically speaking I believe Webbe’s barrister would have need to ask for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court and that Appeal Court needs to grant it.
    Skwawbox do you know if a leave to appeal to the Supreme Court has been granted?
    Still I agree with you that paraphrasing Hamlet something smells rotten.

    1. Apparently there are no routes to a further appeal now – I’m told connected to the fact that neither conviction was by a jury – short of going to the European court if that’s even an option these days

      1. Skwawkbox, I am afraid since Brexit that route has been firmly closed specially since the initial hearing happened after Brexit.
        I would argue that this is a case of institutional racism. The whole harassment case appear to be based on:
        1- 17 silent phone calls from Webbe’s phone to Merritt lasting each less than 14 seconds ( It could be argued that other people could have access to Webbe’s phone line)
        2- A recorded telephone conversation started by Merritt in which Webbe asked her repeatedly to stay our of her relationship with Thomas.
        3- Webbe calling Merritt a slut and threatening to publish her naked pictures (possibly in the same phone conversation?)
        It has been established that Merritt was having a sexual relationship with Webbe’s partner and that she was sending Thomas naked pictures of herself. Hence, the use of the word “slut” appears somehow appropriate. I wonder if the same outrage at the use of the word “slut” would have arose if Merritt has been a black woman leaving on welfare instead of a white woman working as an Executive Assistant.
        I wonder what Jess Philips and Angela Rayners would have called a hypothetical mistress of their partners in similar circumstances? Let us not forget Rayners branding the Tories “scum” and the PM a “criminal”. But somehow a black woman MP calling the mistress of her partner “slut” when the mistress is phoning her is proof of harassment.
        I have not doubt in my mind that have Phillips or Rayners been at the receiving end of similar complaint, the MET would have not file charges against either Phillips or Rayners. More importantly Starmer would have come out on their defence.
        Solidarity Claudia.

  7. Thank goodness the ‘threatening with acid’ accusation was rebuked. This could have had the most appalling consequences for her safety and reputation. I’m appalled that such a shoddy trial was allowed to take place.

  8. But they are apparently still demanding that
    Webbe resign – talking about “serious allegations”.

    This is despite Merritt being awarded compensation
    of £50 (reduced from £1000) and the judge accepting
    she lied in Court.

    The judge declared Claudia innocent of threatening
    to throw acid.

  9. Holby, this is false outrage from the front bench of the Labour Party. Starmer & co are demanding Claudia’s resignation because she is a socialist.
    Come on! has Merritt been having an affair with Rayner’s or Phillip’s partners can anyone here believe that they wouldn’t have called Merritt “slut” and worse? Can anyone believe that Starmer wouldn’t have come up in their defence?
    Let us wait and see what is the result on the Khalid’s case in the Employment Tribunal and Starme’s response to it.

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