Former SNP MP who abused position of trust to steal £25,600 jailed

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Former SNP MP Natalie McGarry has been jailed for 18 months (Andrew Milligan/PA)

A former SNP MP who abused her position of trust to embezzle more than £25,600 from pro-independence groups has been jailed for 18 months.

Natalie McGarry, 37, spent the money on rent, a holiday to Spain with her husband, transfers of money to him, and other lifestyle spending, Glasgow Sheriff Court was told.

McGarry pleaded guilty to two charges of embezzlement when she appeared at the court on April 24.

Her attempt to withdraw the guilty pleas at a later hearing was refused by Sheriff Paul Crozier.

Sentencing her at the court on Thursday, Mr Crozier said she had expressed no remorse for her crimes.

He said: “Your fraud and deceit is of the most serious type. You were in a position of trust and you abused those positions.

“You have fallen very far short of the standards the general public should expect from their elected representative.

“Criminality of this sort involves multiple breaches of trust.

“Your conduct is such that the custodial threshold has been passed and there is no alternative sentence available apart from custodial.”

McGarry embezzled £21,000 from Women for Independence (WFI) in her role as treasurer of the organisation.

She transferred money raised through fundraising events into her personal bank accounts and failed to transfer charitable donations to Perth and Kinross food bank and to Positive Prison, Positive Future between April 26 2013 and November 30 2015.

The court heard £750 raised for Perth and Kinross food bank, which would have provided food for 30 families, never reached the organisation.

Natalie McGarry court case
McGarry arriving at Glasgow Sheriff Court for sentencing (Douglas Barrie/PA)

McGarry also gave her bank details for the Our Voice crowdfunding initiative which raised £10,472.

That money was deposited into her bank account in April 2014 and was spent by early June, some of it legitimately and some of it for rent and other lifestyle spending.

McGarry used some of the money she had embezzled to go on a week-long holiday to Spain with her husband. It was paid for with his Barclaycard, on to which she had transferred some WFI money.

The former MP, who represented Glasgow East and did not seek re-election in 2017, also used cheques drawn on the Women for Independence bank account to deposit money into her own account.

McGarry also admitted embezzling £4,661.02 in the course of her role as treasurer, secretary and convener of the Glasgow Regional Association of the SNP between April 9 2014 and August 10 2015.

Her WFI colleagues eventually became suspicious and had an emergency meeting about accounts in November 2015 and decided she should be reported to police.

McGarry’s defence agent Allan Macleod had urged the sheriff to deliver a non-custodial sentence and said his client continues to maintain she is innocent of the charges.

He said she has had mental health issues over the years, including depression and anxiety, and also suffered from post-partum depression following the birth of her daughter in November 2017.

McGarry sobbed in the dock as her lawyer told the court that earlier this week she suffered a “devastating” miscarriage while six weeks pregnant.

Natalie McGarry
McGarry failed in a previous attempt to withdraw her guilty pleas (PA)

Mr Macleod said: “She describes her life as almost intolerable.

“Two weeks ago she considered that life could not get any worse, and then it did.

“She was pregnant and miscarried, that happened on Sunday and that is something that for her has been absolutely devastating.

“She is at the lowest point in her life she has ever been. Her career is ruined, her reputation is in tatters, she has lost friends, colleagues, her reputation and job, and now her child.”

Mr Macleod said the family’s finances are in a “perilous” state and McGarry’s main concern is for her daughter, who is 18 months old.

McGarry was elected as an SNP member in 2015 but resigned the party whip following the emergence of fraud allegations – which she denied at the time – continuing in Parliament as an independent.

She was charged by police in 2017 over alleged fraud relating to potential missing funds from Women for Independence, which was set up in the run-up to the 2014 Scottish referendum, and the SNP’s Glasgow Regional Association.

Women for Independence has called for there to be more alternatives to prison.

In a statement issued after McGarry was sentenced, it said: “The general pattern of offending by women is such that we believe most women serving custodial sentences would be better served by community disposals which do not disrupt families, children or in the long run cost more, but which can demonstrate real benefits to women to cut reoffending while making a valuable contribution to the community.”

It added: “We are frustrated … that there are not more alternatives to prison available for sheriffs to consider and we will continue to campaign on this issue.”

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