‘Ludicrous’ prison sentence for Peterborough MP Fiona Onasanya leaves ‘unsavoury odour’ - city councillor of 62 years

Fiona Onasanya pictured in Peterborough following her conviction. Photo: Terry Harris
Fiona Onasanya pictured in Peterborough following her conviction. Photo: Terry Harris
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Until I retired two years ago I had served on Peterborough City Council for 62 consecutive years, 20 as its leader.

During that period six members of the council have been sent to prison on terms ranging from three to 18 months whilst they were in office.

Two councillors for receiving bribes relating to planning offences, one councillor for claiming mileage and attendance allowances that never existed and three councillors for postal vote fraud.

They immediately lost their position, their paid allowances and received a five-year ban for standing in any future elections. In addition, all of them were family men/women and they lost their livelihoods.

Fifty-seven years ago I was myself a JP and sat with judges at County Court proceedings and the quarterly local Assizes.

On one occasion we sentenced one young man to 12 months in prison for stealing a handbag, another man received six months for stealing an overcoat from a local dance hall. Both had to serve their full time.

The sentence given to our local MP is not only ludicrous but leaves an unsavoury odour.

Here we have a person, an honourable Member of Parliament, a pillar of society in the local community, a solicitor, a past local councillor for Cambridgeshire County Council, a shadow Whip in the House of Commons and a practising Christian, found guilty after two costly trials at the Old Bailey, given six weeks imprisonment, for that is what she was told she would serve by the judge.

The system at present (tagging etc) means she could be out within four weeks.

At present our local MP has lost little. The whole episode falls into two categories.

First, the police time and public money spent at two Old Bailey trials can only be described as a farce.

Second, when an MP can be paid £208 per day for being incarcerated, walks straight out of jail into the parliamentary lobby and keep her job. This again can only be described as a Whitehall farce.

I know that I speak for 90 per cent plus of the citizens of Peterborough when I ask for a substantial increase in Fiona Onasanya’s sentence.

There should be no ifs or buts for a person who preaches equality.

She should be treated in the same manner as that given to local councillors – they were/are all public servants and, as the judge quoted in my presence, these pillars of society, respected by their local communities. And because they knew exactly what they were doing they disgracefully betrayed the trust given to them by their electorate.

Charles W Swift OBE

Freeman and Honorary Alderman of the City of Peterborough