Jared O’Mara: has ex-Labour MP been found guilty of expenses cocaine fraud - what was his sentence?

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The former Sheffield Hallam MP went on trial after giving incorrect invoices to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority

Former Labour MP Jared O’Mara has been sentenced to four years in prison after he was found guilty of fraud.

The ex-politician made false expenses claims totaling around £24,000 of the taxpayer’s money to fund an “extensive” cocaine habit. He was convicted of sex counts of fraud at Leeds Crown Crown with Judge Tom Bayliss KC saying that O’Mara has “abused his position”.

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The 41-year-old went on trial for submitting “dishonest” invoices to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) between June and August 2019. O’Mara served for Sheffield Hallam from 2017 until 2019, spending most of his time as an independent. O’Mara left the Labour Party in October 2019 following a string of controversies.

O’Mara was said to have led a “cocaine and alcohol driven lifestyle”, with the “cynical, deliberate and dishonest” expenses made to help fund this. A second man, Gareth Arnold, was also found guilty on three of the six fraud charges and has been sentenced to 15 months suspended for two years.

What has he been found guilty of?

O’Mara has been convicted of six counts of fraud.

Leeds Crown Court heard he made four claims for a total of £19,400 from a “fictitious” organisation called Confident About Autism South Yorkshire, which jurors were told referred to his friend John Woodliff. O’Mara was also found to have submitted a false contract of employment for Woodliff, pretending he worked as a constituency support officer - Woodliff was cleared by the jury of having any role in the fraud.

O’Mara was found not guilty of two fraud charges over invoices from another friend, Gareth Arnold, for media and PR work that prosecutors claimed was never carried out.

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Jared O’Mara, former MP for Sheffield Hallam, is said to have tried to claim up to £30,000 worth of taxpayer’s money to fund his “extensive cocaine habit”, a court has heard (Credit: Parliament)  Jared O’Mara, former MP for Sheffield Hallam, is said to have tried to claim up to £30,000 worth of taxpayer’s money to fund his “extensive cocaine habit”, a court has heard (Credit: Parliament)
Jared O’Mara, former MP for Sheffield Hallam, is said to have tried to claim up to £30,000 worth of taxpayer’s money to fund his “extensive cocaine habit”, a court has heard (Credit: Parliament) | Parliament

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.

Arnold, who became O’Mara’s chief of staff in June 2019, was found guilty of three fraud charges and cleared of three.

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.”

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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.”

John Woodliff, co-defendant of former MP Jared O’Mara arrives at Leeds Crown Court. O’Mara is charged alongside two others, his former aide Gareth Arnold and John Woodliff. O’Mara, who represented the constituency of Sheffield Hallam from 2017 to 2019, has pleaded not guilty to eight charges of fraud. Credit: PAJohn Woodliff, co-defendant of former MP Jared O’Mara arrives at Leeds Crown Court. O’Mara is charged alongside two others, his former aide Gareth Arnold and John Woodliff. O’Mara, who represented the constituency of Sheffield Hallam from 2017 to 2019, has pleaded not guilty to eight charges of fraud. Credit: PA
John Woodliff, co-defendant of former MP Jared O’Mara arrives at Leeds Crown Court. O’Mara is charged alongside two others, his former aide Gareth Arnold and John Woodliff. O’Mara, who represented the constituency of Sheffield Hallam from 2017 to 2019, has pleaded not guilty to eight charges of fraud. Credit: PA | PA

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”.

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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.”

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