Labour MP made numerous unwanted calls to woman, court told

A serving MP threatened and made numerous unwanted telephone calls to a woman, a court has heard.

Claudia Webbe, who was elected Labour MP for Leicester East in December 2019, pleaded not guilty to one charge of harassment during the 20-minute hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday afternoon.

The 55-year-old spoke only to confirm her name, her age, and her address as Moreland Street in Islington, north London, and to formally enter her not guilty plea.

Webbe is charged with one count, that between September 1 2018 and April 26 2020, she pursued a course of conduct which amounted to the harassment of a woman named Michelle Merritt, which Webbe knew or ought to have known amounted to harassment.

Claudia Webbe court case
Leicester East MP Claudia Webbe denies the charge against her (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

The prosecution alleges Webbe made numerous unwanted telephone calls to Ms Merritt and made threats on at least two occasions.

The defendant acknowledges calls were made but disputes the content.

She was released on unconditional bail to appear at a one-day trial at the same court on March 16 2021.

Earlier, chief magistrate Emma Arbuthnot declined a request from Webbe’s counsel Dr Courtenay Griffiths QC that she be allowed to sit in the well of the court – rather than in the dock – for the hearing.

Ms Webbe entered the Commons in the December general election, winning the seat formerly held by Keith Vaz, the Labour veteran who retired from Parliament in the wake of a scandal.

Before Leicester, Ms Webbe was a councillor in Islington, between 2010 and 2018 and was a member of Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee.

Earlier in her career, she was a political adviser to then-London mayor Ken Livingstone.

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