CPS falsehoods ‘motivated by sexism and racism’ says MP. And what about the party that kicked her out?

Last Updated: March 29, 2024By

Independent MP Claudia Webbe has accused the Crown Prosecution Service of sexism and racism after it failed to properly update a press release that falsely stated she had “threatened to throw acid”.

The issue has serious implications for the Labour Party, which expelled Webbe after her initial conviction for harassing a woman who was having an affair with her partner. This was partly based on information that was ruled false when she appealed.

According to the BBC,

The former Labour MP was found guilty of harassing Michelle Merritt, who was having a sexual relationship with her then partner, between September 2018 and April 2020.

In May 2022, an appeal judge said the court found Webbe had not “made a threat to throw acid over” Ms Merritt, but that a string of silent phone calls and threats to reveal naked pictures of her “amounted to harassment”.

A 10-week suspended prison sentence she received in November was also reduced to community service.

Compensation awarded to the victim was also reduced massively – from £1,000 to £50.

The CPS had published a press release that reflected the findings of the original trial, and issued an amendment after the appeal. But this did not reflect the appeal court’s findings.

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Webbe complained to the Independent Assessor of Complaint (IAC), which investigates complaints made to the CPS. She said the failure to correct the inaccuracy “contributed to [her] receiving constant death threats, silent calls, and vile online social media abuse”.

The IAC responded, saying the updated press release was “both incorrect and reputationally damaging” and that the error had “an adverse effect” on the MP’s health and wellbeing. The CPS agreed to make a “goodwill payment” – but has not responded to the “sexism and racism” claims after the IAC said it found no evidence to support them.

But it is hard to find evidence that a failure to amend a press release properly was motivated by such prejudices, if all one has is the press release itself.

On the other hand, Labour should be re-considering its position regarding Webbe – but probably isn’t.

It is clear that the party expelled her on the basis of false information, and it seems unlikely that she would have been expelled for making silent phone calls and empty threats against a woman who was doing what Ms Merritt had been doing at the time.

It would be appropriate for Keir Starmer to extend an olive branch of some kind to Webbe. Failure to do so may suggest that the party had been looking for a reason to get rid of her – and this should harm its reputation and electoral chances, particularly in the Leicester East constituency she currently holds.

Webbe herself seems happy to be standing for re-election as an Independent. It would be just desserts for Keir Starmer if the voters there deserted his party and stayed with her. It’s a matter of trust.

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