Judge adjourns Old Bailey trial of Peterborough MP Fiona Onasanya after 'matters drawn to his attention'
The trial of Peterborough Labour MP Fiona Onasanya has today (Wednesday) been adjourned after parties brought a matter to the attention of the judge during a court recess.
Onasanya is on trial at the Old Bailey accused of perverting the course of justice, and yesterday the court was told by the prosecution that the MP plotted with her brother to evade a speeding prosecution by claiming a Russian man had been behind the wheel.
However, resuming proceedings this afternoon Judge Nicholas Hilliard QC explained to jurors that the "parties have drawn to my attention a matter during the break and it just needs checking from everybody's point of view".
The case has been adjourned until tomorrow, Thursday, November 15 at 10.15am.
The court heard yesterday that at 10.03pm on July 24 last year, Ms Onasanya's Nissan Micra was allegedly caught by a speed camera on The Causeway near the village of Thorney, in Cambridgeshire.
The incident happened the week after the newly-elected MP for Peterborough had broken up for the summer recess last year, jurors were told.
A Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) was returned, naming the driver of her car as Aleks Antipow.
But jurors were told Mr Antipow was at home with his parents in Russia at the time.
The Russian had previously lived in Chesterton in Cambridge at a house rented by Onasanya and her brother Festus, the court heard.
The contact address and phone number given for him were also linked to Onasanya’s 33-year-old sibling, it was claimed.
Prosecutor David Jeremy QC said: “The purpose in providing the name of a real person as the driver, but providing a false address and telephone number that were connected to Festus Onasanya, was that Mr Antipow, while a real person, would remain untraceable to the police and so the true driver of Miss Onasanya’s car on the 24th July 2017 would escape prosecution.”
Festus Onasanya, of Chesterton, Cambridge, had deployed the same tactic when his car was caught by a speed camera on June 17 and August 23 last year, jurors heard.
Last Monday, he pleaded guilty to three charges of perverting the course of justice, including one relating to the July 24 incident.
Mr Jeremy told jurors that Onasanya was a busy person but had “trapped” herself in lies by adopting her brother’s methods of making a speeding prosecution disappear.
He said: “This case may have started as a case about an offence of speeding.
“It has become, as a result of the choices made by Miss Onasanya, a case about lying. Lying persistently and deliberately. Lying all the way to this court, maybe about lying in this court.
“Lying a way that has had to be co-ordinated with lies told by her brother. Lying to avoid prosecution for a breach of the laws that apply, or should apply, to every single one of us whoever you may be.
“What a shame she did not tell the truth in the beginning.”
On February 3 last year, Onasanya, a trained solicitor, had no difficulty correctly filling out an NIP form after triggering another camera the month before, the court heard.
That time she had avoided points on her licence by going on a speed awareness course.
A police investigation allegedly found her two mobile phones were in the area of the traffic camera around the time it was activated on July 24.
And she had not claimed expenses for accommodation in London since the Friday before, the court heard.
The Cambridgeshire Police camera unit sent an NIP to Mr Antipow but it was returned to sender.
On being asked to provide correct contacts, the defendant replied: “I have supplied the details made known to me as well as the licence information...I have provided a completed nomination previously.”
Another NIP letter was sent to Mr Antipow but again received no response.
Mark Williams, an investigator from the Cambridgeshire Camera Ticket unit, repeatedly tried to contact Ms Onasanya.
On November 2, she allegedly told him that she “stands by her nomination”.
When she attended a voluntary interview at Bedford Police headquarters on January 2, she declined to answer questions.
Mr Jeremy said: “It must, as some of us may know, be very irritating to receive that bit of paper telling us that we have triggered a speed camera and asking us to name the driver of the car.
“But while irritation is understandable, telling lies to frustrate an investigation into an offence is not.
“What Miss Onasanya did when her vehicle was trapped on the 24th July 2017, was not just to own up and tell the truth which would have been so much better but to adopt her brother’s method of evading prosecution.
“The two of them were acting jointly in telling lies in order to prevent the prosecution of the true driver.”
He told jurors: “The question for you to decide in this case will be whether Festus Onasanya was acting alone when he perverted the course of justice in relation to the trapping of Miss Onasanya’s car on the 24th or whether the two of them were acting together.”
Ms Onasanya, from Peterborough, has denied one count of perverting the course of justice.
The trial, which is expected to go on for a week, was adjourned until Wednesday.
Before sending jurors away, Judge Nicholas Hilliard QC told them: “I’m sure it does not need saying but politics do not come into it. They cannot be a factor in the decision-making process at all.”