A LAWYER acting for former SNP MP Natalie McGarry has told appeal judges how social media posts present a “real problem” for the justice system.

The ex-politician, originally from Inverkeithing, was given a two-year prison sentence after being found guilty of embezzling more than £24,000 but is now appealing against her conviction.

Her lawyer, Gordon Jackson KC, told the Court of Criminal Appeal today (Thursday) that "nasty" messages and allegations on Twitter prevented his client from receiving a fair trial at Glasgow Sheriff Court last year.

He said: “How we deal with social media is a real problem for the operation of the legal system in this country.

“At the time the jury were empanelled, there was a Tsunami of tweets made about Ms McGarry. These were nasty, personal and focused on attacking her."

Mr Jackson told appeal judges Lady Dorrian, Lord Pentland and Lord Matthews that the content made allegations that she got pregnant in order to avoid being sent to jail.

The tweets also made reference to how Ms McGarry had previously pleaded guilty to the embezzlement charges but made no reference to why appeal judges ordered a retrial.

The advocate said: "We can see the language in these tweets – she is described as being a ‘mindblowing moron’ and ‘she got away with it on a technicality’.

“The Crown say it is of a minor prejudice. But I say that it is not the case. I say it is of a serious prejudice.

“We say that the sheriff erred in not acceding to the submission to desert the trial.

"We say that the sheriff should have deserted proceedings when he was made aware of the tweets.”

Mr Jackson is acting for Ms McGarry, who was granted permission late last year to appeal her conviction for embezzlement.

After a six week trial she was sentenced to two years in prison in July 2022 after being found guilty of stealing £19,974 while treasurer of the pro indie group Women For Independence.

McGarry, who served as MP for Glasgow East between 2015 and 2017, was also convicted of embezzling £4,661 when she was treasurer and convener of the SNP’s Glasgow Regional Association.

However, her lawyers believe she is the victim of a miscarriage of justice.

Mr Jackson told the appeal court that the tweets contained links to newspaper articles detailing how Ms McGarry had previously pleaded guilty to the embezzlement charge.

He also told the court that the Crown did not do enough to ensure the tweets had been removed so that jurors could not see them.

Mr Jackson said that during the trial, her lawyer Allan Macleod took measures to have articles about Ms McGarry’s previous cases removed from the internet.

He said newspapers complied with the request but the problem came from the tweets posted on Twitter.

Urging the appeal court to quash Ms McGarry’s conviction, Mr Jackson added: “There’s a proper risk to the administration of justice in this jurisdiction when faced with the information contained within these tweets.”

He also asked the court to cut her sentence as he believed it was too lengthy given the circumstances surrounding her conviction.

Prosecutor Alex Prentice KC urged the appeal judges to reject Mr Jackson’s submissions.

The court heard that the Crown Office posted warnings on its website about the dangers of tweeting on the case.

He said that Sheriff Tom Hughes, who presided over the trial, had warned jurors to try Ms McGarry solely on the evidence presented to them in court and Mr Prentice said the verdicts returned by the jury showed that they had done so.

He added: “These were not slavish unanimous verdicts of guilt. These were majority verdicts with deletions made from the charges."

He said care had to be taken on what measures could be applied on reporting court cases as it could result in “serious constitutional issues”.

Lady Dorrian said she and her colleagues needed time to consider their decision.

She added: “We will issue our decision in writing as soon as possible.”