Convicted solicitor MP told she faces being struck off

Onasanya: Intending to appeal

Fiona Onasanya, the Labour MP and solicitor jailed yesterday for three months, has been told she is likely to be struck off.

Ms Onasanya was convicted of perverting the course of justice after lying about a speeding offence.

Sentencing her at the Old Bailey, Mr Justice Stuart-Smith repeatedly referred to her role as solicitor – she was previously a commercial property specialist.

“The fact remains that, both as a solicitor and as a Member of Parliament you are fully aware of the importance of upholding the proper administration of justice.

“You have not simply let yourself down; you have let down those who look to you for inspiration, your party, your profession and Parliament.

“The impact of your conviction has been disastrous for you. You have been expelled from the Labour Party and it seems inevitable that you will be struck off as a solicitor.

“But as things stand, it is not right to say that you have lost everything: you have decided to remain as a Member of Parliament despite your expulsion.”

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

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.

Stuart-Smith J said Ms Onasanya’s brother Festus filled out the form, providing details of people he knew would not be “traceable by the authorities”.

The judge said he was told she did not accept the jury’s verdict, “but as a solicitor you will understand that I am bound by it and must be true to it”.

Stuart-Smith J said the circumstances surrounding the capture of the Nissan Micra on camera in July 2017 were examined in minute detail at the trial last year, and he was “sure” it was Ms Onasanya at the wheel when the speed camera was activated.

He said the solicitor’s evidence that she failed to properly check what she was doing on that day was “credible” given that she had been elected as MP in June 2017, and initially had no staff or constituency office.

It was also “credible” that the NIP was passed from Ms Onasanya’s mother to her brother.

Stuart-Smith J said Ms Onasanya was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in September 2017 when she received a letter questioning the details given on the NIP, and her reply was “inaccurate”, but in the circumstances he could not be sure she sent it with the intention of perverting the course of justice.

However, by the start of November 2017, she knew that “false information had been supplied” and deliberately committed the offence of perverting the course of justice, even if she “now realised there was a serious mess” and “stupidly chose to support” her brother’s actions.

Stuart-Smith J went on: “At trial you, Ms Onansanya, said that you provided no answers when interviewed on 2 January 2018 because you were simply taking the opportunity to hear what the police had to say and thought there would be another opportunity to provide your version of events at a later date.

“Coming from you, an intelligent and articulate solicitor, that evidence was frankly incredible and I reject it.”

The judge said she was “well able” to pay any fine that would have imposed and a speeding offence would have been no “real or lasting embarrassment” to her as an MP.

However, he said the conviction would have a “disastrous effect” on her “for years to come” and was “self-inflicted”.

Stuart-Smith J said he would not treat Ms Onasanya “more severely” because of her position as an MP and solicitor, but “there cannot be one law for those in positions of power, privilege and responsibility and another for those who are not”.

Ms Onasanya has said she intends to appeal against her conviction.

Festus Onasanya was sentenced to 10 months in prison after pleading guilty to three separate offences of perverting the course of justice – all relating to giving false information relating to speeding offences.

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