Former Labour MP Jared O’Mara tried to fraudulently claim up to £30,000 of taxpayers’ money to fund his “extensive cocaine habit”, prosecutors have told a court.
O’Mara, 41, is currently on trial at Leeds Crown Court for submitting “dishonest” invoices to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) during his time in parliament. The former MP served for Sheffield Hallam from 2017 until 2019, spending most of his time as an independent. O’Mara, who left the Labour Party in October 201 following a string of controversies, faces eight charges of fraud by false representation.
He is alleged to have made four false claims to IPSA between June and August 2019 from a “fictitious” organisation called Confident About Autism SY. He is also said to have made two further false claims from his “chief of staff” Gareth Arnold for media and PR work, which prosecutors claim had never been carried out by O’Mara.
O’Mara appearing in court alongside O’Mara, Arnold and a third man John Woodliff also face allegations. Arnold was jointly charged with six of the fraud allegations, while Woodliff - who O’Mara is said to have created a fake contract of employment to “pretend” that he worked with him as a constituency support officer - was jointly charged on one of the offences. All three deny the charges.
What did the prosecutors say about Jared O’Mara?
James Bourne-Arton, prosecuting, told the court that all of O’Mara’s claims, which totalled around £30,000, were unsuccessful and were not awarded by the IPCA due to a lack of evidence of the work being carried out. He said: “The prosecution say that Jared O’Mara viewed IPSA, and the taxpayers’ money that they administered, as a source of income that was his to claim and use as he wished, not least in the enjoyment of his extensive cocaine habit.”
The prosecution has also said that it believed that Arnold and Woodliff were “sadly persuaded to go along” with O’Mara’s “dishonest claims.” The court heard a police call from Arnold, who contacted authorities over his friend’s claims after “reaching a point at which he was no longer willing to participate in the fraud”.
In the call, which was made in summer 2019, Arnold said: “It’s a bit of a tricky one but yesterday I spoke to the 999 service and the mental health crisis team about my employer, who I believe is suffering a severe psychotic episode and has delusions of a conspiracy against him. I also believe he has been submitting fake expense claims to the government very recently.”
Mr Bourne-Arton described the charity Confident About Ausitm SY as “an invention of Jared O’Mara”. The prosecutor said that the former MP had “hoped to slip through as a legitimate claim, no doubt seeking to hide behind the fact that it related to his disability if ever challenged.”
The court also heard that at the time of the claims being made, O’Mara was “living to or beyond his means and in dire need of cash”. The court also heard that both Arnold and Woodliff were aware of O’Mara’s “significant cocaine habit”.
Mr Bourne-Arton said: “(Arnold) described an undoubtedly sad state of affairs in which O’Mara was plainly unable to cope with the office he held, was in poor mental health and was heavily addicted to cocaine that he was abusing in prodigious quantities.”
O’Mara, of Walker Close, Sheffield, Arnold, of School Lane, Dronfield, Derbyshire, and Woodliff, of Hesley Road, Shiregreen, Sheffield, deny all charges.