Cambridgeshire

Fiona Onasanya: Peterborough MP guilty in speeding case

Fiona Onasanya Image copyright PA
Image caption Fiona Onasanya was issued a speeding ticket a week after she was elected as MP

An MP has been found guilty of perverting the course of justice by lying to police about who was behind the wheel of a speeding car.

Peterborough MP Fiona Onasanya denied she was driving her car when it was caught doing 41mph in a 30mph zone in Thorney, Cambridgeshire, in July 2017.

The 35-year-old Labour MP was convicted in an Old Bailey retrial.

A Labour Party spokesman said she had been "administratively suspended" and has called for her to resign.

He added: "The Labour Party is deeply disappointed in Fiona Onasanya's behaviour. It falls well below what is expected of politicians. She should now resign."

The MP's brother Festus Onasanya, 33, previously pleaded guilty to three counts of perverting the course of justice.

The pair will be sentenced on a date yet to be set.

Image copyright Crown Prosectution Service/PA
Image caption The MP's Nissan Micra was caught by a speed camera in Thorney

After the verdict, the judge Mr Justice Stuart-Smith said: "This is not going to be easy, not to give any indication one way or the other [about sentencing]."

During her retrial, after a previous jury failed to reach a verdict, the court was told the MP's Nissan Micra car was caught near Peterborough just after 22:00 BST on 24 July last year.

She received a Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) that required her to state whether she was driving the car at the time or to identify who was.

The authorities were told the family's former lodger Aleks Antipow had been behind the wheel, but inquiries revealed he had been in Russia visiting his family at the time.

A fake address and telephone number were also provided, which the prosecution said would make Mr Antipow "untraceable to the police" and the "true driver" would escape prosecution.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Festus Onasanya pleaded guilty to three counts of perverting the course of justice

The MP's former communications manager Dr Christian DeFeo came forward during the first trial to give evidence against her, after his wife forwarded him a local newspaper article about the case.

He said she visited their house, a short distance from the speed camera in Thorney, on the evening of 24 July and that she arrived and left alone.

The court heard Onasanya's mobile phone was being used in the vicinity of the speed camera at the time of the offence.

She claimed to the jury that her brother "would have had to be driving me" and added: "I don't use my phone when driving".

BBC Radio Cambridgeshire political reporter Hannah Olsson

This will be a blow to the Labour Party - Fiona was one of their rising stars.

She was quickly promoted to the whip's office and said she had ambitions to be the first black Prime Minister, but it would seem her career with the Labour Party is now over.

The verdict does not necessarily mean there will be a by-election, but if she is sentenced to more than a year imprisonment, even if it is suspended, it will automatically trigger a by-election.

If it is less than a year that would trigger a recall petition which means if 10% of all her constituents sign a petition there would have to be a by-election.

If that did not happen, in theory she could continue sitting as an independent MP, but that seems unlikely.

Onasanya had been elected as an MP six weeks before the speeding offence took place, but stood down as a Labour whip in November.

She told the court she had been working from a Westminster corridor during her early weeks as an MP and was deluged by thousands of emails.

When she received the NIP over the speeding offence she said she had left it at her mother's home in Cambridge for whoever borrowed her car because she assumed she had been in London.

She had also been admitted to hospital for a relapse of multiple sclerosis while being pursued for the NIP and said she was "probably not in the best head space" at the time.

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