The former Labour MP Jared O’Mara has been sanctioned by the House of Commons for an “abuse of power” and the sexual harassment of a former staffer, sending her “inappropriate messages and approaches”.
Parliament’s standards watchdog revoked the former Sheffield Hallam MP’s parliamentary pass, which he is entitled to hold as an ex-member. The complaint, made in July 2019, has taken almost two years to result in a sanction and is likely to prompt calls for the process to be made swifter for victims.
O’Mara was elected in 2017, defeating the former Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, but faced a string of controversies during his time in parliament.
His former employee Jennifer Barnes made a formal complaint with the parliamentary commissioner for standards over O’Mara sending her inappropriate messages, which the commissioner found were in breach of the sexual misconduct policy.
The investigation said she had “felt and was subject to escalating behaviours that constitute sexual harassment” and said it was “abuse of power” by O’Mara.
The former MP, who has cerebral palsy and autism, did not appeal against the decision. The report by the panel found there were “aggravating features, in particular the lack of remorse or insight and the refusal to engage” by O’Mara.
The panel, which is independent, recommended that he be stripped of his pass, a sanction that was accepted by the House of Commons speaker, Lindsay Hoyle.
The panel’s chair, Sir Stephen Irwin, disse: “The panel makes its decisions guided by the principles of natural justice, fairness for all parties, transparency and proportionality. We understand the seriousness of, and the harm caused by, bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct. We are rigorously independent, impartial and objective, acting without any political input or influence.”
Barnes told the Times she had felt intimidated by the messages from O’Mara, who was 17 years her senior. She said messages through various channels were often sent at night, including O’Mara telling her he was in love with her.
O’Mara was suspended from Lavoro duro e faticoso nel 2018 after abusive messages he had made on social media resurfaced. He was later reinstated but then resigned from the party saying he had been “made unfairly to feel like a criminal”.
The then MP took significant leaves of absence from parliament, which he said was on the advice of doctors, and later announced his intention to quit the Commons, saying he was “not in any fit state to continue and nor would that be appropriate if I was”.