MP Fiona Onasanya loses appeal against conviction

Judges rule MP has no grounds to challenge case that she lied to avoid speeding ticket

Fiona Onasanya faces the possibility of being kicked out of parliament after losing an application to appeal against her conviction for perverting the course of justice.

The disgraced MP for Peterborough will be the subject of a recall petition after being told by a panel of judges on Tuesday that there were no grounds to challenge the prosecution’s case that she had repeatedly lied to avoid a speeding ticket.

Following the court ruling, the House of Commons’ Speaker, John Bercow, confirmed that he had written to the Cambridgeshire city’s petitions officer under the provisions of the Recall of MPs Act 2015.

A recall petition could be opened within weeks which would allow Onasanya’s constituents to decide if a byelection should be held.

Labour and the Conservatives said they would “actively support” efforts to trigger a byelection – possible if at least 10% of the electorate in the constituency signed a recall petition.

The case at the Royal Courts of Justice in London was heard by three judges – Sir Brian Leveson, the president of the Queen’s bench division, Mr Justice William Davis and Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb.

Leveson expressed surprise at Onasanya’s decision to come to an appeal court without legal counsel or legal binders and was “a bit concerned” that she did not have any notes.

He said: “The reason I started the conversation I am having with you in the way I did is because you take considerable issue with the evidence that two of the witnesses gave, which I understand you suggest that evidence was central to the case against you. First of all, we do not re-decide the evidence and cannot reinvestigate the facts. You are a solicitor, you will understand that.”

Onasanya told the court: “The charge against me was perverting the course of justice. I said from the outset, and I still maintain my innocence, that I did not do that.”

Rejecting Onasanya’s appeal, Leveson said it was a “tragedy” that her career had been damaged irrevocably. “There is absolutely no basis for challenging her conviction,” he said.

Onasanya has not voted in the House of Commons since she was released from prison last week, having served four weeks of her three-month sentence. She also faces being struck off as a solicitor.

Outside court, the independent MP said she did not wish to comment and did not reply when asked if she would stand again if a recall petition were successful.

Making an announcement to MPs in the chamber, Bercow said: “I have received a letter this afternoon from the registrar of criminal appeals informing me that Fiona Onasanya’s application for leave to appeal against her conviction has been refused. I will accordingly be writing to the relevant petition officer to inform that person that Fiona Onasanya is therefore subject to a recall petition process.”

Onasanya, 35, a former Labour whip and supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, was elected as a Labour MP in 2017 after beating the incumbent Conservative MP Stewart Jackson by 607 votes.

Jurors at the Old Bailey were told she had colluded with her brother Festus after her car was clocked at 41mph in a 30mph zone in the village of Thorney near Peterborough in July 2017. She was sent a notice of intended prosecution to fill out, but it was sent back naming the driver as Aleks Antipow, an acquaintance of her brother.

Festus Onasanya was sentenced to 10 months in prison after he pleaded guilty to three counts of perverting the course of justice over speeding, including in relation to the 24 July incident.

The attorney general’s office ruled that Onasanya’s sentence was not unduly lenient after a complaint was lodged.

The recall petition would have to be opened within 10 working days of the notification. Up to 10 designated signing places could be set up and remain open for six weeks for constituents to sign.

A byelection would be triggered if 10% of eligible constituents – estimated to be about 7,000 of an approximate 70,000 – signed to recall Onasanya and call a byelection.

No MP has yet been recalled under the statute. An attempt to recall the DUP MP Ian Paisley Jr in September failed when 9.4% of constituents supported it.


Rajeev Syal

The GuardianTramp

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