Former MP Jared O’Mara ‘gurned and clenched teeth’ at staff meeting, court hears

Former MP Jared O’Mara ‘gurned and clenched teeth’ at staff meeting, court hears

Labour MP on trial for fraud ‘appeared to be on some sort of substance’, says former caseworker

Former Labour MP Jared O'Mara.

A former Labour MP held a constituency staff meeting where he was gurning, grinding his teeth and “talking a million miles an hour”, a court has heard.

Jared O’Mara “appeared to be on some sort of substance”, said Kevin Gregory-Coyne, a former caseworker for the MP.

O’Mara, who defeated the Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg to take Sheffield Hallam at the 2017 election, is on trial at Leeds crown court accused of eight counts of fraud. Prosectors say the 41-year-old filed fraudulent expenses amounting to £30,000 to help fund a “significant” cocaine habit.

On Wednesday, Gregory-Coyne, who for six months was a caseworker in O’Mara’s constituency, said he could only recall the MP ever going into the office once or twice.

In February 2019, O’Mara did attend a meeting, albeit an hour late.

“He appeared to be on some sort of substance,” said Gregory-Coyne. “He was gurning, he was clenching his teeth, he was sweating and talking a million miles an hour. I do remember saying to my colleagues at the time, ‘I think he’s on something.’”

Gregory-Coyne said O’Mara was talking about a planned social initiative. “He wanted to create videos of him doing speeches because he said he wasn’t able to go down to parliament and make a speech in the chamber due to his anxiety.”

The idea was that O’Mara would film speeches he would have made and put them on social media and Patreon, an online subscription platform.

“Also comedy routines as well. He fancied himself as a comedian.”

Gregory-Coyne said the MP very rarely went to parliament in London. On occasion, one of his jobs was to accompany the MP to London but O’Mara would make excuses not to go.

“A number of times he said he had injured himself. He said he’d slipped in the shower; he said that a couple of times.”

Other times, O’Mara texted at the last minute and said “I’m not coming” and offered no explanation.

Gregory-Coyne also described occasions when O’Mara “shouted and swore” at staff.

O’Mara, who attended via video link from his home in Sheffield, denies all the charges. He was MP between 2017 and 2019.

The prosecution alleges that O’Mara planned to share the proceeds of fraud with his co-accused, his “old friends” Gareth Arnold and John Woodliff – both of whom he employed in his office in 2019.

Arnold, from Dronfield, Derbyshire, was O’Mara’s chief of staff and helped submit the expenses, while Woodliff, from Sheffield, was employed on a £28,800 salary as a constituency support worker, a role the prosecution said he did not carry out.

Arnold is accused of six counts of fraud relating to the expenses and Woodliff of one count of fraud, based on not carrying out the support worker role. Both deny the charges against them.

The trial continues.