A FORMER Labour MP has been jailed for four years for making fraudulent expenses claims to fund an “extensive” cocaine habit while in office.
Jared O’Mara was convicted of six counts of fraud after trying to claim about £52,000 of taxpayers’ money for work that was never done and jobs that did not exist.
O’Mara, 41, who represented the constituency of Sheffield Hallam from 2017 to 2019, went on trial for submitting fake invoices to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) between June and August 2019.
Leeds Crown Court heard O’Mara made four claims for a total of £19,400 from a “fictitious” organisation called Confident About Autism South Yorkshire.
A jury found he also submitted a false contract of employment for his friend John Woodliff, pretending he worked as a constituency support officer.
The former nightclub manager was cleared of two fraud charges over invoices from another friend, Gareth Arnold, for media work that prosecutors claimed was never carried out.
But he was convicted of an offence of fraud after emailing Ipsa in February 2020, falsely claiming the police investigation into him had been completed and he was entitled to be paid the two invoices relating to Arnold, which totalled £4,650.
Prosecutors said the total value of the fraud was about £52,000, including Mr Woodliff’s proposed salary of £28,000.
Arnold, who became O’Mara’s chief of staff in June 2019, was sentenced to 15 months suspended for two years after a jury found him guilty of three fraud charges, but cleared him of a further three.
Prosecutor James Bourne-Arton said the fraud was not a victimless crime and that it had an impact on other MPs “because it undermines public trust and confidence in them”.
Mark Kelly KC, defending O’Mara, said he wanted to apologise to his constituents “for his failure to resign in October 2017” when controversial comments he made online before becoming an MP were revealed.
“When he felt that he was being hounded by the media, whether that is the case or not, he felt under pressure from the media for certain circumstances that had come to light,” Mr Kelly said.
He told the court O’Mara was “an inadequate individual to cope with the stresses and strains of public life” and “resorted to taking drugs, alcohol and distancing himself in many respects from those that were around him”.
“These circumstances were very difficult circumstances for him to cope with, with his particular disabilities,” Mr Kelly added.
O’Mara won Sheffield Hallam for Labour from former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Nick Clegg in 2017, but later left the party after a series of controversies.
He stayed in office as an independent MP but did not contest the 2019 general election.