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Haringey councillor trial: ‘My mother would have done the same’ says witness

PUBLISHED: 19:35 21 January 2014 | UPDATED: 15:01 22 January 2014

On trial: Cllr Nilgun Canver

On trial: Cllr Nilgun Canver

Archant

A witness in the trial of a former cabinet member accused of perverting the course of justice by telling police she was behind the wheel of a car crashed by her son has said his own mother would do the same to protect him.

Stavros Oikonomou was hit by Cllr Nilgun Canver’s silver BMW on Seven Sisters Road, Tottenham, shortly after midnight on January 24 last year, Wood Green Crown Court heard.

But it was Cllr Canver’s son Burak who was behind the wheel, having taken the family car without permission. He has since been prosecuted for aggravated vehicle taking and driving without insurance.

Cllr Canver is now on trial accused of attempting to pervert the course of justice by claiming she was behind the wheel, when in fact she was at home.

Describing the crash, prosecutor Brendon Morris said Mr Oikonomou saw the BMW coming towards him on the other side of the road, before it veered across the carriageway, smashed through a metal bollard, mounted the pavement and hit his knees, ploughing through a flowerbed and hitting a lamppost.

The 24-year-old was spun round on the spot by the impact, which came “within a hair’s breadth” of causing him far more damage, said Mr Morris.

He saw a man get out of the car, check the back seat and quickly make off, the court heard, then called his brother. The pair of them called police and waited 90 minutes for officers to turn up.

Cllr Canver and a friend got to the scene about 20 minutes later, he said, and initially she asked if everyone was OK.

His brother was taking photos of the BMW and Mr Oikonomou overheard Cllr Canver telling him, “I was driving my car; your brother wasn’t hit,” and “If I had hit him he would have been killed”.

The councillor then said to Mr Oikonomou: “Show some mercy, brother”, “We can deal with things between us” and “I will pay whatever necessary to sort this out; there is no need to get police”, the court heard.

Mr Oikonomou said: “They done what any parent would have done. They tried to help their child. They were trying to solve the problems and deal with it there and then without the involvement of any police or ambulance.”

Marguerite Russell, defending, asked him: “What your mother would have done?”

He replied: “I would think so, yes.”

Miss Russell suggested the brothers were shouting and “having a go” at Cllr Canver, brought up the subject of compensation and “wanted money”.

But he rejected the claims, adding: “I had no motivation in speaking to either of them. I knew who the driver was and I didn’t want to get involved.”

Summarising the prosecution case to jurors this afternoon, Mr Morris led them through the initial conversation between Cllr Canver and police.

“Asked, ‘Were you the driver?’ she says, ‘Yes I was the driver’.

“‘Are you OK?’ ‘A bit shocked.’

“‘Anyone else with you in the car?’ ‘Yes, my son, but he has gone home.’

“It must have seemed attractive, but it was a lie. Witnesses saw that it was a man. She was asked again whether she was the driver, at which point she started to cry, making the point that she was a single mother trying to protect her son as any mother would.

“The question you have to deal with here is did she [lie to police] with the intent to pervert the course of justice? It doesn’t matter whether she did or got found out shortly afterwards. The question is, what was her intention when she spoke to the police officer?”

Cllr Canver, who lives on the Harringay Ladder and has served on Haringey Council for 16 years, denies one count of attempting to pervert the course of justice. The case was adjourned until tomorrow.

+ An application to have the case struck out, heard this morning, was declined by the judge.

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