A FORMER cabinet member, who was allegedly the victim of sex slurs during last year's local election campaign, broke down in court while giving evidence today.

Barry Smith was overcome with emotion during the trial of Labour Cllr Miranda Grell, who is accused of falsely telling voters the former member for Leyton ward is a paedophile.

Mr Smith is in a long-term relationship with a 38-year-old Malaysian man.

Cllr Grell surprised many when she won a seat in the Liberal Democrat stronghold by pushing the former community safety portfolio holder into fourth place by 28 votes.

Speaking during the first day of proceedings at Waltham Forest Magistrates Court, Mr Smith told how he lived in fear after being spat at in the street, subjected to homophobic taunts and threatened with violence following the poll last May.

He also installed a security door at his home after experiencing hostility on the doorstep during the weeks running up to the ballot.

Mr Smith now lives in the north of England.

Cllr Grell, 29, of Lyttelton Road has denied four counts of making false statements under the Representation of the Peoples Act 1983.

Paul Williams, defending, said she was the victim of a conspiracy hatched by local Liberal Democrats, who want revenge after losing the safe seat.

The claim was vehemently denied by Mr Smith today.

Mr Smith told the court he already suspected his sexuality had been used against him when resident Naomi Robinson alerted him to sinister rumours circulating in the community.

Mr Smith said: "Naomi appeared to be cross and was quite indignant. She said it was a bad thing that people say you are gay to put people off and added that Ms Grell said I was living with a 16-year-old Thai boy.

"I was shocked, it was bad enough that I felt homophobia was being used against me, but when I heard that there was a possible suspicion of paedophilia - some things cannot be described, I just wanted to get out of there."

Proceedings were then halted temporarily as Mr Smith struggled to hold back tears.

Earlier prosecution witness Caroline Dargan, former chair of Orient Neighbourhood Watch, told the court that Ms Grell started talking about Barry Smith after calling at her house while canvassing on April 17 last year.

She said Ms Grell asked if she knew Mr Smith was gay and added that he has a young boyfriend in his teens.

Ms Dargan said she began to feel uncomfortable and quickly ended the conversation. She later raised the issue with Alert, a council-run reporting facility for hate crime, and Mr Smith following the election.

Leyton resident Kevin Sorkin also said Cllr Grell told him Mr Smith was a paedophile and slept around with boys under the age of 15.

Mr Sorkin also contacted Alert over the allegations.

The trial continues.