Times caption: Fiona Onasanya, right, was jailed for three months for perverting the course of justice (PRESS ASSOCIATION)
Followers of this blog will not be surprised that in connection with the same crime, Festus Onasanya, the brother of Fiona Onasanya MP, received a 10-month prison sentence, while she received a three-month sentence (and will probably serve only 28 days in prison). Festus admitted to attempting to perverting the course of justice, while his sister did not, and has refused to admit it to this day. The piece by Will Humphries in The Times:
Fiona Onasanya has become the first female MP to be jailed after she lied about a speeding ticket but is refusing to quit parliament because she wants to keep her salary, a court was told.
The disgraced former Labour MP, who now stands as the independent member for Peterborough, was yesterday sentenced to three months for perverting the course of justice. She will continue to receive her salary of more than £77,000 while in prison.
MPs are automatically forced to step down only if they receive a jail sentence of more than 12 months. However, under laws introduced in 2015, any prison term can trigger a recall petition which can force a by-election if signed by 10 per cent of voters in a constituency.
Onasanya, 35, is appealing against her conviction and the recall petition cannot start until the appeals process has been exhausted, which could take several months. It is believed she has received about £9,000 in wages since her conviction in December.
Christine Agnew, QC, defending, told the Old Bailey that “she continues to stand as an independent MP and her only reason for that is because it is her only source of income”.
Former Labour colleagues yesterday said it was “totally wrong” that Onasanya could continue to be paid while in prison. John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, repeated his party’s call for her to quit as an MP. Labour expelled her following her conviction.
Lucy Powell, MP for Manchester Central, said: “It shames us all, to be honest. This case highlights what more we still need to do to ensure we are seen to be treated the same as everyone else.”
Jess Phillips, MP for Birmingham Yardley, added: “We must change our rules accordingly.”
As well as the first female MP, [J4MB: This is puzzling. She’s not even the first female MP for Peterborough. The last was Helen Clark.] Onasanya is the first sitting MP to be jailed in 28 years. The last was the-then Labour MP Terry Fields in 1991 for refusing to pay his poll tax bill of £373. Mr Justice Stuart-Smith jailed Onasanya, a former solicitor, for three months but said she will serve only half that time. She is likely to spend only 28 days in jail [J4MB emphasis] because she will be eligible for the home detention scheme, which allows those serving between three months and four years to be released early with an electronic tag and curfew.
Onasanya was sentenced alongside her brother Festus, 34, who admitted perverting the course of justice to avoid speeding prosecutions on three occasions. He was jailed for ten months. [J4MB emphasis] Onasanya’s troubles began when she was caught driving at 41mph in a 30mph zone near Thorney, Cambridgeshire, on July 24, 2017.
When she received a Notice of Intended Prosecution letter nine days later she could not remember if she had been driving [J4MB: Haven’t we all been in that situation?] and allowed her brother to fill in the form. He named a former tenant as the driver and forged his sister’s signature. By the time she was questioned about the form on November 2, Onasanya knew what her brother had done but lied to the police.
Mr Justice Stuart-Smith told her: “You made the wrong choice, with disastrous consequences . . . 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. It is well beyond the remit of this court to speculate on what the future holds for you as Member of Parliament for Peterborough.”
The case has drawn comparisons to that of Chris Huhne, the former Liberal Democrat cabinet minister who was jailed for eight months in March 2013 for points swapping with his wife to avoid a driving ban. Mr Justice Stuart-Smith said Huhne’s case was “more serious” because he had deliberately conspired from the outset to pervert the course of justice, had risked disqualification if he was convicted and had kept up the lie for almost a decade.
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