Former MP Natalie McGarry was left terrified after being pursued in a paparazzi-style chase through Fife with her child in the car.
Ms McGarry’s ordeal in Inverkeithing earlier this year – which led to police involvement – was revealed as media regulator IPSO upheld her complaint against The Scottish Sun.
The Murdoch-owned tabloid was ordered to carry the ruling on its front page after the press standards body found it harassed Ms McGarry.
A complaint was lodged by former the SNP MP after an article published by the newspaper on May 18 headlined “Nat’s nicking about again”.
It reported how she had been spotted at her parents’ house in Fife after being freed from prison following her conviction for stealing £19,974 while treasurer of Women For Independence.
But Ms McGarry complained to the Independent Press Standard Organisation (Ipso) about the story and the tactics employed by the journalists involved.
Pursued by two cars on motorway
She alleged that, after leaving her parents’ home, she was pursued by a photographer as she drove in a car with her husband and child towards the nearby motorway.
It is understood Ms McGarry was travelling between Inverkeithing and Glasgow.
After becoming suspicious, Ms McGarry described taking an “illogical route” towards to M90 to confirm she was being followed.
She also spoke to her mum – former Fife councillor Alice McGarry – who contacted the police.
The complaint set out how a second car then began to follow the former MP and her family as she joined the motorway.
Ms McGarry claimed the vehicles “swapped positions” in order to “sandwich her in”.
She said they followed her for around 40 miles, often close enough that she was able to provide their registrations to her mother, who relayed the information to officers.
In response to an initial complaint, The Scottish Sun accepted its reporter “acted inappropriately” but insisted Ipso’s code of conduct had not been breached.
They said that while the reporter initially followed Ms McGarry for a few minutes at a “significant distance”, he lost sight before continuing on to the motorway towards a second address for Ms McGarry the newspaper had obtained.
The Scottish Sun claimed it was a coincidence the reporter caught up with Ms McGarry again and that it was only after he overtook her vehicle he realised this.
But the publication admitted the driver of the second vehicle, a photographer, was aware Ms McGarry was travelling with a child.
They said that, even if the behaviour amounted to harassment, this was justified because of the public interest in reporting on the politician’s activities following her release from prison.
‘Intimidating for Ms McGarry and family’
Ipso said that, with a child present in the car, there would have to be an exceptional public interest to justify the pursuit on a high-speed road across many miles.
In a ruling published online, Ispo upheld Ms McGarry’s complaint of harassment and rejected The Sun’s defence of public interest.
They pointed to the evidence of the photographer, who said he only stopped tailing Ms McGarry when traffic lights prevented him from doing so.
The committee set up to probe the complaint said the pursuit would have been “extremely intimidating and harassing for [Ms McGarry] and her family”.
A complaint about the article’s accuracy was thrown out alongside a second complaint alleging that photographing the politician outside her parents’ home had been an invasion of privacy
Both Ms McGarry and her parents refused to comment when approached by The Courier.
A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “On May 13, 2023, it was reported that a car was being followed on a motorway near Glasgow.
“Suitable advice was given over the phone and no further police action was required.”
Money spent on takeaways
In September, Ms McGarry was ordered to pay just £66 after it was agreed she benefited by more than £55,000 from general criminal conduct.
The former MP for Glasgow East was jailed for two years in June 2022, with the prison term reduced to 20 months on appeal.
Among the high-profile witnesses called to give evidence at the trial were former Scottish Government health minister Jeane Freeman and current First Minister Humza Yousaf.
The trial heard she spent the missing money on rent, takeaways, grocery shopping and a holiday to Spain.