Claudia Webbe’s conviction on a single count of harassment has been upheld in the appeal court of Southwark Crown Court, despite a judge finding that her accuser Michelle Merritt had lied in her evidence to police and the court, after messages from Merritt’s phone – withheld during the magistrate’s trial that convicted Webbe – were disclosed to the defence and extensively examined in the appeal hearing.
In spite of Merritt’s untruthfulness to the court, the judge decided to accept Merritt’s claims about threatening phone calls – even though the only call in evidence was made by Merritt to Webbe. The judge concluded that Merritt had felt some alarm as a result but that this was not serious and noted that the Crown had conceded that the withheld evidence provided ‘substantial’ mitigation.
The appeal court judge had been explicit in accepting that accuser Michelle Merritt had lied but decided to accept her other evidence anyway:
We found that although Michelle Merritt was an unsatisfactory witness who told lies about the nature of her relationship with Lester Thomas until the downloads from her phone made the nature of the relationship clear, in other respects we accept her evidence.
Webbe suffered horrific racist abuse after widespread misreporting of the original case and was targeted for murder by at least two men, with official Labour comments and the lack of support from Keir Starmer only serving to incite further. The judge accepted Webbe’s good character and concluded that there was no evidence of any acid threat, despite widespread misreporting of it by the mainstream media during the first trial.
Ms Webbe may still appeal further, either before or after the judge gives her decision on sentencing.
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