Peterborough MP Fiona Onasanya begins her defence at Old Bailey trial

Peterborough MP Fiona Onasnya told her trial that her fresh 'leap' into national politics landed her with thousands of emails and working from a corridor.

Monday, 19th November 2018, 1:02 pm
Updated Monday, 19th November 2018, 5:26 pm
Fiona Onasanya

Labour MP Ms Onasanya, (35), allegedly schemed with her brother to claim a Russian man was behind the wheel of her Nissan Micra when it was clocked doing 41mph in a 30mph zone.

The trained solicitor, who had been elected in Peterborough just over a month before the incident in July last year, gave evidence at the Old Bailey today (Monday) as she fights a charge of perverting the course of justice.

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Fiona Onasanya

The churchgoer and former county councillor discussed her hectic rise through politics, joining a select committee four weeks after the general election.

“It was massive. It was more a leap than a step. I didn’t have an expectation because I did not have any idea what it would be like,” said Ms Onasanya, who wore a blazer and black dress.

“It was a little but like being asked if you can swim and you say ‘Yes, I can get by, I can swim’, and then you get thrown in the ocean, it’s not comparable.”

She said that being whisked through the Westminster security process was “a bit like a freshers’ fair” as she was given a laptop and iPad.

Asked how long it was before she had an office, she said: “I cannot remember the exact day because they had one committee room where everyone could be hot-desking or you could sit in a corridor.”

Asked how busy her correspondence was in June 2017, she said: “As a new MP, when you get your laptop, iPad and security pass, they also tell you they have opened an email account for your Parliamentary email address.”

The court heard that in July last year she had about 5,000 unanswered emails in her inbox.

“It’s as if you had switched your phone off for a month and then you turn it on and the messages come through one after another,” she added.

“When I started on June 12 and I sat down in the corridor thinking what do I do, how do I hire staff, who do I ask? When I turned in my laptop it started with 50 emails, then it jumped to 70, 100, 700. I had over 2,000 so that’s just starting.”

Ms Onasanya told jurors how she would leave her car in Cambridge and spend four days a week in Westminster.

Her brother Festus, mother and others would sometimes drive her Nissan Micra, before it was written off following an accident, she said.

Explaining why singer Festus would borrow her car when he had his own, she said: “His car was often off-road having repairs and things done to it so he would use my vehicle.

Onasanya would sometimes let someone else drive her, she said: “Because of the nature of my work, sometimes because of a health condition I would be quite tired so I would be a passenger and also so I could get on with work if someone else was driving.”

The MP, who was later promoted to the shadow whips office, also said that at the time of the incident she was unaware that her brother had nine points on his licence and had previously been disqualified for drink-driving.

Her car was caught by a speed camera on The Causeway, near the Cambridgeshire village of Thorney, at 10.03pm on July 24 last year.

A Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) was returned, naming the driver of her car as Aleks Antipow.

But jurors were told that Mr Antipow was at home with his parents in Russia at the time.

He previously lived in Chesterton, Cambridge, at a house rented by Onasanya and her brother Festus, the court heard.

It was also claimed that the contact address and phone number given were linked to Onasanya’s 33-year-old sibling.

Festus Onasanya, of Chesterton, had previously deployed the same tactic, jurors heard, and he pleaded guilty to three charges of perverting the course of justice.

One of those counts related to the July 24 incident.

At that time he had nine points on his licence, three short of disqualification limit, and previous convictions for speeding, the court was told.

Prosecutor David Jeremy QC previously accused the MP of “lying persistently and deliberately” in a co-ordinated scheme with her brother to avoid prosecution.

The court also heard that, on February 3 last year, Fiona Onasanya had correctly filled out an NIP for triggering another camera a month earlier.

She kept a clean licence and avoided points by going on a speed awareness course.

A police investigation allegedly found that her two mobile phones were in the area of the traffic camera around the time it was activated on July 24.

Onasanya, from Peterborough, is on bail while the trial continues.