An ex-MP who tried to claim £52,000 of taxpayers’ money to help fund a cocaine habit has been jailed for four years.
Jared O’Mara sent fake invoices to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), the body which regulates MPs’ business costs and pay.
He was thousands of pounds in debt to a drug dealer, his trial heard.
O’Mara, who quit the Labour party about a year after being elected as Sheffield Hallam MP, was convicted of six counts of fraud.
Gareth Arnold, who submitted invoices to IPSA on behalf of O’Mara, was given a 15-month jail term suspended for two years.
The court heard fake invoices worth £24,000 were rejected by IPSA and a false £28,000 contract of employment submitted by O’Mara meant the total value of the fraud was £52,000.
O’Mara was elected to Parliament for Labour in June 2017, unseating former deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.
He quit the party the following year and became an independent after he was suspended by the party over comments he had posted online before becoming an MP.
The 41-year-old stood down in 2019, the same year the fraud offences took place.
Through his barrister, O’Mara apologised to the 70,000 voters in the South Yorkshire constituency for failing to resign in October 2017, the month he was suspended by Labour.
However, Judge Tom Bayliss KC called the apology “entirely disingenuous” and said the fraud was “cynical, deliberate and dishonest”.
“You must have realised early on that you were wholly unsuited to the role, but you carried on regardless, you brazened it out; drawing a salary, but doing little or no parliamentary work,” he told O’Mara.
“You are not here because of that and I do not aggravate your position because of it. It is irrelevant to these proceedings. That is a matter between you and those who elected you.
“You are here because you abused your position to commit fraud and you have shown not the slightest degree of remorse in respect of that.”
The court previously heard O’Mara made claims totalling £19,400 to IPSA for services he said had been provided by a “fictitious” organisation called Confident About Autism South Yorkshire.
Prosecutors said the former politician had used the postcode of a McDonald’s restaurant in the city as the company’s business address and the firm’s name had no online search engine results.
He was also found guilty of trying to claim £4,650 for services he said his 30-year-old “chief of staff” Arnold, of School Lane, Dronfield, Derbyshire, had provided to him.
He also submitted a false contract of employment for a friend, pretending he worked as a constituency support officer on a salary of £28,000.
All the invoices were rejected by IPSA due to a lack of detail about the work carried out, the jury was told.
The jury heard O’Mara, who is autistic and has cerebral palsy, was experiencing mental health issues at the time of the offences, but the judge concluded he was “able to exercise appropriate judgement and make rational choices”.
Prosecutor James Bourne-Arton told the sentencing hearing the fraud was not a victimless crime as it “undermines public trust and confidence” in MPs.
Judge Bayliss, sentencing O’Mara, of Walker Close, Sheffield, told him the fraud was designed to get him out of “significant financial difficulties”.
He continued: “Those difficulties were caused by a hedonistic and self indulgent lifestyle, fuelled by the consumption of large amounts of vodka and cocaine.”
Following the hearing, Labour said it had made changes to the way candidates were chosen.
“Thanks to Keir’s leadership, the Labour party has put in place robust due diligence processes so that candidates are of the highest calibre,” a party spokesperson said.
“Keir believes that the public have a right to know that everyone we put forward at election time is of a high standard. This case shows why Keir was right to demand that change.”
Source : BBC