Photo: Antonio Olmos/The Observer
A court heard that a former Labor MP held a constituency staff meeting where he grit his teeth and “spoke a million miles an hour.”
Kevin Gregory-Coyne, the lawmaker’s former social worker, said Jared O’Mara “seems to be using some sort of substance”.
O’Mara, who won Sheffield Hallam in the 2017 election defeating Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, is facing eight counts of fraud in Leeds royal court. Prosecutors say the 41-year-old made fraudulent spending of £30,000 to help fund a “significant” cocaine habit.
On Wednesday, Gregory-Coyne, who worked as a social worker in O’Mara’s constituency for six months, said he could only remember going to the office once or twice.
O’Mara attended a meeting, albeit an hour late, in February 2019.
“He seemed to have taken some kind of substance,” Gregory-Coyne said. “He was laughing, clenching his teeth, sweating and talking at a million miles an hour. I remember telling my colleagues at the time, ‘I think he’s doing something’.”
Gregory-Coyne said O’Mara talked about a planned social enterprise. “He wanted to shoot videos of him speaking because he said he couldn’t go down to parliament and speak in the hall because of his anxiety.”
The idea was to film O’Mara’s speeches and put them on social media and Patreon, an online subscription platform.
“Also comedy routines. He imagined himself as a comedian.”
Gregory-Coyne said the MP rarely goes to parliament in London. Sometimes one of his jobs was to escort the MP to London, but O’Mara would make excuses not to go.
“He said he hurt himself several times. She said she slipped in the shower; said this several times.
Other times, O’Mara texted at the last minute and said “I’m not coming” and offered no explanation.
Gregory-Coyne also described instances of O’Mara “yelling and swearing” at staff.
Joined via video link from her home in Sheffield, O’Mara denies all charges. He served as a member of parliament between 2017-2019.
The prosecution alleges that O’Mara plans to share the proceeds from the scam with “old friends” Gareth Arnold and John Woodliff, both of whom he employed in the office in 2019.
Arnold, of Dronfield, Derbyshire, was O’Mara’s chief of staff and helped cover the costs, while Woodliff, of Sheffield, was working as a constituency support officer with a salary of £28,800, the prosecutor’s office said.
Arnold is charged with six charges of spending fraud and Woodliff on one count of fraud for failing to fulfill his role of support officer. Both deny the charges against them.
The trial continues.