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HMA v Natalie McGarry


Jun 30, 2022

At Glasgow Sheriff Court today, Sheriff Tom Hughes sentenced Natalie McGarry to two years imprisonment after she was convicted of two charges of embezzlement.

On sentencing, Sheriff Hughes said: "You have been convicted by a jury of two separate charges of embezzlement. These took place over a period in excess of two years from 26 April 2013 to 30 November 2015.

Since I adjourned the Diet for sentence I have had the opportunity of reading the criminal justice social work report and other background reports. I have heard an able plea in mitigation made by your counsel Mr McCloud. 

This is a very troubling case. You have no previous convictions and up until now I am told that you have had an exemplary character. The background reports confirm that you come from a good family in which you helped them play a significant role in the community. You had a good education and worked extremely hard to develop your career in politics, leading to you eventually becoming an elected Member of Parliament.

What came across from the evidence is that there is no doubt that you were a hard working politician who devoted your time in attempting to further the aims of your political party and those of the Women for Independence Organisation.

The court should take all of this into account but more importantly, the court must fully concentrate on the serious nature of your offending whilst working with these organisations.

To place this case in some context, it took years for the circumstances of these offences to be investigated by the authorities following the initial complaint made about your conduct. A long and detailed investigation was carried out by Police Scotland and it is also fair to say that your own defence team spent some considerable time and effort looking into the background of this case.

All the relevant evidence was placed before the jury during a trial which took place over a period in excess of 6 weeks and all the relevant evidence was skilfully placed before the jury by the procurator fiscal depute and by your own counsel. Hundreds of productions were considered by the court and the jury had the benefit of hearing from many witnesses, including forensic accountants and professional accountants with a view to establishing the facts of this case. You yourself give evidence for a period in excess of 4 days.

The jury took some time to consider all of the relevant evidence and returned a discerning verdict convicting you of both charges under deletions of some of the aspects of charge number 1. In essence you were convicted of embezzling just under £25,000. The jury obviously rejected the evidence you gave during the trial.

In terms of Section 204 of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995, a court shall not pass a sentence of imprisonment on a person who has not previously served a sentence of imprisonment or detention unless the court considers that no other method of dealing with them is appropriate. This court must therefore look at your convictions in context. These are very serious charges which took place over a prolonged period of time. A substantial number of transactions were carried out by you in order to allow you to participate in these crimes. This was not a one off incident.

The jury have convicted you of crimes of dishonesty. Over the relevant period the jury have accepted that you lied to others, deceived colleagues you were working with and embezzled funds from organisations who entrusted you with their finances. In particular you had obtained money from colleagues and people who looked up to you when you falsely claimed to them that you are about to be evicted from property you had been renting. x

At a time when it was known that there were serious financial difficulties with the Women for Independence Organisation, you were offered help from various sources to assist you in preparing appropriate accounts. You resisted all attempts by others to assist you knowing well fine that you had been responsible for embezzling funds from that organisation. You knew that if they had become more involved with the accounting process your misappropriation of funds would have been discovered. You encouraged colleagues to sign blank cheques allowing you to lodge funds from both organisations referred to in each of the charges into your own personal bank account. You deceived all of the members of the public who had contributed by crowdfunding to the Women for Independence Organisation leading them to believe that the accounts were all in order when you well knew that they were not. You also used funds for your own purposes, which had been due to be paid to your political party to pay for some of your parliamentary expenses.

These are not victimless crimes. The jury heard from various members from the women for Independence organisation that they themselves were concerned about their own professional reputations by being linked with your criminal conduct. One of the organisers, Miss Freeman made reference to the sacrifices being made by many of the members to contribute to the crowdfunding when they were not in a comfortable financial position to do so and they were contributing because they were so passionately involved in the merits of that organisation. They were all betrayed by you. You betrayed your colleagues and others who had placed their trust in you. The jury considered your own version of what happened in respect of these matters but have obviously rejected what you said in your evidence.

Society has the right to expect the highest standards of those who seek and eventually achieve high public office. You were a role model for many aspiring politicians and you eventually became a Member of Parliament. By your involvement in these offences as I have outlined, 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 their politicians and MPs.

Because of the serious nature of these offences a custodial sentence is inevitable. No other sentence is appropriate. This has to reflect the serious nature of the offences for which you have been convicted, the prolonged period over which these took place and your blatant breach of trust placed in you by others. In all of the circumstances you shall serve a custodial sentence of 2 years imprisonment."