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Committee on Standards publishes report on Kate Osamor MP

19 March 2020

The Committee on Standards publishes a report which finds that Kate Osamor MP acted in breach of paragraph 16 and 17 of the House of Commons Code of Conduct which cover the use of House provided stationery and the reputation and integrity of the House.

A detailed memorandum from the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards is appended to the report. Associated evidence is published on the internet.

The Commissioner's findings

MPs must ensure that their use of public resources is always in support of their Parliamentary duties and does not confer any personal of financial benefit on themselves or anyone else.

The Commissioner found that Ms Osamor acted in breach of paragraph 16 of the Code of Conduct in her use of House-supplied stationery to write to a court. Her son, who was employed in Ms Osamor's parliamentary office, had pleaded guilty to a charge of possessing controlled drugs with intent to supply. On the day of the sentencing hearing, 18 October 2018, Ms Osamor hand-delivered at the court a letter on House of Commons stationery using the crowned portcullis supplying a character reference for her son. The Commissioner concluded that this was a breach of the rules because it wrongly gave the impression that her correspondence carried the authority of the House.

The Commissioner also found that Ms Osamor acted in breach of paragraph 17 of the Code (which relates to damage to the reputation of the House) by her behaviour on the evening of 30 November 2018 when, in the presence of police officers who video-recorded the incident, Ms Osamor used abusive language to a journalist who was inquiring into her involvement with her son's case.

Finally, the Commissioner found Ms Osamor had also breached paragraph 17 by a number of failures to respond to contacts from her.

Ms Osamor accepts that committed these breaches of the Code and has apologised for her conduct. The Commissioner states in her memorandum that, because breaches of paragraph 17 cannot be subject to the rectification procedure, she was required to refer this case to the Committee. However, she drew the Committee's attention to written evidence from Ms Osamor arguing in mitigation of the offences.

The Committee's conclusions

The Committee accepts the Commissioner's findings that Ms Osamor breached the Code. It concludes, however, that there were several mitigating factors:

  • Noting that there is nothing wrong in supplying a character reference to a sentencing hearing, and that a Member might properly use House stationery in supplying such a reference for one of their parliamentary staff, but that Ms Osamor was unwise to do when the employee was her own son, the Committee comments: "it is clear from the contents of Ms Osamor's letter that she was not seeking to interfere in an improper way with the course of justice, simply to make representations on behalf of her son which she considered herself entitled, as a mother and an employer, to make".
  • The Committee describes Ms Osamor's language to the journalist as "extreme and highly regrettable", and considers she was rightly found in breach of paragraph 17, but adds that it was "a hot-blooded reaction to a difficult personal situation" and should be seen in the context of the strain and pressure she was under as the result of a long period of continuous media scrutiny of her family affairs, and of threats and abuse she and her staff had experienced prior to the incident.
  • Although Ms Osamor breached the Code by her earlier failure to respond to contacts from the Commissioner, she was subsequently co-operative and has apologised for her conduct.
  • Ms Osamor resigned from the Opposition Front Bench as a result of these events, so she has paid a price for her behaviour in terms of her career.

The Committee recommends that Ms Osamor should apologise to the House, through a letter to the Committee, for her breaches of the Code of Conduct. The written apology, when received, will be published on the Committee's website. The Committee add that if Ms Osamor were to commit any further similar breaches of the Code, a serious view of the matter would be taken.

The lay members of the Committee played a full and active part in drawing up the Committee's report, with which they are in agreement. 

Further information

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