SBL and Judge Peter Herbert say court’s decision to believe word of white woman caught in repeated lies over that of black MP is typical of ‘historic and systemic racism’ in justice system and that the case would never have come to trial if a black woman had been accusing a white woman
The Society of Black Lawyers (SBL) has declared the conviction of Leicester East MP Claudia Webbe to be a serious miscarriage of justice that typifies the historical and systemic racism that affects the justice system in England and Wales.
Ms Webbe had her appeal against conviction for harassment upheld in Southwark Crown Court but had her suspended sentence of imprisonment drastically reduced to 80 hours community service, with the £1,000 compensation originally awarded to the ‘victim’ in a magistrate’s court reduced to £50.
An SBL press release states:
[Webbe] does not now face an automatic deselection but will no longer be able to stand as a Labour MP at the next election in 2024. The Metropolitan Police had failed to disclose some 800 pages of text messages and images that showed the “victim” had lied repeatedly to the police about her relationship to Ms Webbe’s former partner, and to the Chief Magistrate when she claimed that they were simply “good friends” without an intimate relationship. The undisclosed material demonstrated Ms Merritt had a sexual relationship with Ms Webbe’s former partner between 2017 and 2020, throughout the entire period she claimed she was the subject of harassment. She also is likely to have lied to the police, that there was any threat by Ms Webbe to throw acid at her.
She played ”victim” in text messages with her friends, discussed Ms Webbe’s demise as an MP, ridiculed Ms Webbe as being naïve, and criticised Ms Webbe’s character long before the alleged course of harassment commenced.
Despite this obvious lack of credibility, the “victim’s” word was still preferred to that of Ms Webbe, who was meant to have made a series of silent phone calls to Ms Merrit. The main allegation that she threatened to throw acid on the victim was not upheld.
Retired Judge D Peter Herbert O.B.E. commented,
“The test for a case such as this which turns solely on the credibility of the victim is to what extent anything she said could be relied on. The key question is whether the white privilege knowingly enjoyed by this female was applied to ensure the police believed her victim account, and the Crown Prosecution Service and the Chief Magistrate saw her as the wronged woman harassed into a vulnerable wreck by an obsessive and aggressive black female. This is the same systemic racism of stereotypes that results in exponential stop and search rates for black men, the unlawful strip search of Child C, and the disproportionate deaths in custody of black men”.
Herbert further commented,
“One simply has to reverse the ethnicity of the alleged victim to demonstrate that no black female who lied and fabricated evidence to the police about a white female MP, CPS and Chief Magistrate would have her allegations pursued on appeal. Any black female “victim” who lied in this manner would herself have faced charges for perjury, and possibly for attempting to pervert the course of justice. Her credibility would have been undermined and not selectively upheld on appeal.”
The Society of Black Lawyers calls upon the black and progressive community to reject this latest decision that black lives and experiences are less credible than that of a white female. It is a matter of deep concern that Ms Webbe M.P. also faced vile racial abuse on social media throughout these proceedings. SBL urges Ms Webbe not to resign her seat in Parliament, especially given the Prime Minister’s failure to accept the inevitable conclusion of the Sue Gray report as meriting his resignation for lying and misleading Parliament.
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.
The idea that demonstrated lies by an accuser do not at the very least raise ‘reasonable doubt’, the required legal threshold that the prosecution must exceed under UK law, is beyond astonishing. The SBL and Peter Herbert have today made clear that this is a view that is shared by trained legal minds.
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