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Ex-MP Natalie McGarry jailed for 18 months over £25k fraud

McGarry, 37, took more than £25,600 from pro-Scottish independence organisations.

Natalie McGarry admitted embezzlement.
Natalie McGarry admitted embezzlement.

Former SNP MP Natalie McGarry has been jailed for 18 months after embezzling more than £25,600.

The 37-year-old admitted taking more than £25,600 - including donations intended for a food bank - between April 2013 and November 2016.

This included £21,000 from Women for Independence (WFI), when she was treasurer of the organisation, and the SNP's Glasgow Regional Association.

She spent some of the money on a holiday to Spain with her husband and also used it to pay rent.

McGarry, from Clarkston in East Renfrewshire, pleaded guilty to two charges of embezzlement in April and on Thursday morning was sentenced at Glasgow Sheriff Court.

Proceeds of Crime proceedings have now begun in a bid to recover the money, the Crown Office confirmed. 

Sheriff Paul Crozier told McGarry: "This offence is of the most serious kind and you were in a position of trust and you abused this position.

"This was an organisation where you were a founding member and you used the funds for your own use.

"There is no alternative than a custodial sentence as you have shown no remorse."

'This offence is of the most serious kind and you were in a position of trust and you abused this position'
Natalie McGarry

The ex-MP, who represented Glasgow East for two years, embezzled £21,000 from WFI in her role as treasurer of the organisation.

She was supposed to give £750 to Perth and Kinross food bank, which would have provided supplies for 30 families.

More than £4600 was taken from the Glasgow Regional Association of the SNP while she was treasurer, secretary and convener.

The court previously heard that McGarry had money problems and ended up £3750 behind with her rent.

At one point she borrowed £600 from current justice secretary Humaz Yousaf, which she later repaid.

McGarry sobbed when her defence counsel, Allan Macleod told the court on Thursday she had suffered a miscarriage on Sunday.

Mr Macleod said: "Two weeks ago she thought that life couldn't get any worse and then it did. She was pregnant and miscarried and that happened on Sunday.

"This is something for her that has been devastating and she is required to attend hospital for further tests."

https://stv.tv/news/politics/1437682-ex-mp-mcgarry-spent-embezzled-25-000-on-holiday-and-rent/ | default

The court heard her husband councillor David Meikle, the former Conservative group leader at Glasgow City council, works two jobs and that McGarry was unemployed and on benefits.

Mr Macleod said: "The two jobs are unsociable hours and it will be difficult to arrange child care [for their 18-month-old daughter] if she is given a custodial sentence."

He also told the court that McGarry maintains her innocence, adding: "She is a person who cares passionately for other people."

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 and didn't stand at that year's general election.

WFI 'frustrated by lack of prison alternatives'

Women for Independence said they were "pleased" the case was over but said they would campaign for more alternatives to prison.

In a statement released after McGarry's sentencing, they said:

"The missing money represented donations from women and men across Scotland to support the organisations campaigning for Independence. For many these donations were a real sacrifice.

"Women for Independence has been long associated with campaigning for justice for women caught up in the criminal justice system.

"We were instrumental in the campaign to halt the building of the proposed super prison for women in 2014 and we launched Justice Watch in 2015 which has been acting as a citizens' witness programme regarding the reality for women and criminal justice.

'We are frustrated however that there are not more alternatives to prison available for sheriffs to consider and we will continue to campaign on this issue'
Women for Independence

"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 re-offending while making a valuable contribution to the community.

"We had no influence on the sentencing diet and recognise that we were not the only party injured by her actions. We respect the sheriff's decision given his comments on the seriousness of the matter.

"We are frustrated however that there are not more alternatives to prison available for sheriffs to consider and we will continue to campaign on this issue."

Jennifer Harrower, Procurator Fiscal for Specialist Casework, said: "Natalie McGarry took advantage of being in a position of trust and responsibility within the community to embezzle cash for her own gain. Her deception led to a significant sum being diverted from charity into her own bank account.

"We take such criminality very seriously and will not stop at prosecution. Proceeds of Crime proceedings have now been commenced to ensure profits obtained through criminal conduct are confiscated from those who do not deserve them."

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