An MP threatened to send naked pictures of a woman to her family because she was jealous of the friendship she had with her partner, a court has heard.
Claudia Webbe, 56, also allegedly used a misogynistic insult against Michelle Merritt and threatened her with acid.
Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard Ms Webbe, who is an independent MP for Leicester East after being suspended by the Labour Party, was in a relationship with Lester Thomas at the time.
She denies one charge of harassment.
The threats were made during 16 phone calls between 1 September 2018 and 26 April last year, the court heard.
“The reason for the harassment would appear to be the fact that Michelle Merritt was friends with Lester Thomas and this was an issue for the defendant Claudia Webbe,” prosecutor Susannah Stevens said.
She said Ms Webbe made a string of short silent phone calls from a withheld number to Ms Merritt, who told the court she had known Mr Thomas for more than 15 years and was “good friends” with him, having previously dated.
‘Should be acid’
Ms Merritt, giving evidence from behind a screen, said: “There was a pattern that whenever I had even met with Lester Thomas, if we had gone out for a drink or something, there would be a phone call.
“When you are being called and no-one answers, it’s unnerving, especially as a woman who lives alone.”
The court heard the harassment “escalated” on Mother’s Day, 31 March 2019, when the MP asked Ms Merritt about her relationship with Mr Thomas.
Ms Merritt said Ms Webbe told her she was “Lester’s girlfriend” and then “really started shouting, ‘Why are you contacting Lester?'”
“She was very, very angry at me. It was loud,” Ms Merritt added.
The 59-year-old said Ms Webbe used a misogynistic insult, adding Ms Merritt “should be acid”.
“She confirmed she knew where I lived and would send pictures and videos to my daughters,” Ms Merritt said.
Ms Webbe – who entered the Commons in December 2019 and worked as a councillor in Islington between 2010 and 2018 – denies making any such threats.
Ms Merritt told the court she called police, saying: “I have been threatened by a public figure with acid over the phone.”
Ms Webbe was warned by officers in April 2019, but magistrates heard claims she continued to make further calls to the complainant – who recorded one after ringing her back on 25 April last year.
‘I would never treat women like that’
In the call, played in court, Ms Webbe is heard repeatedly telling Ms Merritt to “get out of my relationship”, adding “I have seen all of your naked pictures. I will show them all of your pictures”.
Ms Webbe, from Islington, north London, denied that she ever threatened Ms Merritt and denied ever deliberately making silent phone calls from a withheld number.
She said she was aware Ms Merritt was friends with her partner but “didn’t have any concerns” about their relationship, adding: “I was not jealous.”
Talking about the accusation that she made a misogynistic insult against Ms Merritt and threatened her with acid during a phone call on Mother’s Day 2019, she said: “I don’t use expletives, I would never treat women like that.
“I spent my lifetime campaigning for the rights of women, for challenging this type of behaviour and this is not something that is in my character and not something I would ever do.”
Ms Webbe said she had received a phone call from police following Ms Merritt’s complaint but said it was unclear, and that she had not been “warned off any further contact”.
She claimed the recorded phone call which was played in court was taken out of context, and was about an argument with Mr Thomas over breaching the Covid-19 lockdown with Ms Merritt.
“My anger on that particular day was directed towards Lester,” she said.
“It’s not my finest moment. I listened to the tape earlier. I’m embarrassed by it.”
The trial will continue on 13 October.
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