Former SNP MP Natalie McGarry jailed for embezzling £25,000

  • Published
Natalie McGarry arrives at court for sentencing for her embezzlement convictionImage source, PA Media
Image caption,
Natalie McGarry arrives at court for sentencing for her embezzlement conviction

Former SNP MP Natalie McGarry has been jailed for embezzling £25,000 from the SNP and a pro-independence group.

The 40-year-old was sentenced to two years in prison.

She was found guilty last month of embezzling £19,974 while treasurer of Women For Independence and £4,661 when she was treasurer, secretary and convener of the Glasgow Regional Association of the SNP.

McGarry was the MP for Glasgow East between 2015 and 2017.

'Betrayed trust'

Sentencing McGarry, Sheriff Tom Hughes said she had betrayed people who put their trust in her and that a custodial sentence was inevitable.

He told her: "It's quite clear that society has a right to expect the highest standards from those who seek and eventually achieve high public office."

He added: "Through your role in these offences, you have not only betrayed the trust placed in you by others, but your standards have fallen well short of those the public should have a right to expect from MPs."

Image caption,
McGarry was elected as the MP for Glasgow East in 2015, but did not stand in the snap general election two years later

In December 2019, McGarry had an earlier conviction for embezzlement quashed after judges ruled she had suffered a miscarriage of justice.

However, last month, the jury returned majority verdicts on two charges after three hours of deliberations.

It was alleged during the second, six-week trial at Glasgow Sheriff Court that McGarry spent some of the money on expenses such as rent and shopping.

Her legal team had admitted that her finances were "disorganised" and "chaotic", but she denied both charges.

The court heard from dozens of witnesses, including Scotland's former health secretary Jeane Freeman, who said she reported McGarry after noticing a significant shortfall in WFI accounts.

Ms Freeman said she had no idea donations made to the group's independence crowdfunder were going from the organisation's PayPal account into McGarry's personal bank account.

She also voiced her frustrations at McGarry's delay in handing over receipts and invoices which would show what the funds had been spent on.

The court also heard from witnesses that McGarry had personal financial difficulties and regularly received loans from family and friends.

'Legitimate' expenses

That included from Humza Yousaf, the current Scottish health secretary, who gave McGarry £600 to prevent her from being evicted from her house.

The court also saw McGarry's bank records, which showed crowdfunder donations from WFI being transferred to her own personal account.

McGarry had said these were "legitimate" expenses which she had incurred and which she was reimbursing herself for.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Jeane Freeman gave evidence in the trial of Natalie McGarry

A WFI financial probe in late 2015 discovered an income and expenditure gap of £31,824 and the matter was reported to the police.

McGarry paid back £6,436.21 in September 2015, funded by a £6,500 loan from a friend.

In the 2019 trial, McGarry pled guilty to two charges of embezzlement and later attempted to withdraw the guilty pleas.

She had not guilty pleas accepted to another embezzlement charge, and a charge that she refused to give police the passcode for a mobile phone.

Her lawyer in that trial told the court she had suffered mental health issues over the years, including depression and anxiety, and also had postpartum depression following the birth of her daughter in November 2017.

She was sentenced to 18 months in prison but was freed on bail a few days later after lodging an appeal.

McGarry was elected as an SNP MP in 2015 but resigned the party whip after the allegations against her were first made.

She did not seek re-election in the 2017 general election.