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MP who exposed the public to Covid must do community service

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An MP who travelled by train despite knowing she had Covid has been ordered to carry out 270 hours of community service.

She received the order in court earlier today after pleading guilty earlier this year to endangering the public.

In September 2020, Margaret Ferrier took a test for the virus after experiencing symptoms such as a heavy cough. Whilst awaiting the results, she travelled to Glasgow from London and around both cities.

The train she took had 183 passengers on board.

The MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West also spoke in the Houses of Parliament and visited other areas and venues in London, whilst waiting for the test result.

Ferrier admitted that she had exposed the public to the virus ahead of a trial earlier this year at Glasgow Sheriff Court.

The court heard that after testing positive for the virus and subsequently taking the train home to Glasgow, the next day she read to a congregation of around 45 people at a mass in St Mungo’s Church, before heading to Vic’s bar in Main Street, Prestwick, South Ayrshire.

The MP faced renewed calls to stand down from the Commons following her guilty plea. Ferrier has previously said she “deeply regretted” her actions but has so far refused to resign as an MP.

Ferrier’s defence advocate, Brian McConnachie KC, today described her actions as having been “48 hours of poor decisions in a lifetime of otherwise complete observance and upholding of the law”.

He added: “She is 62-year-old lady, a genuine first offender, who has contributed significantly to the constituency in which she resides and to the country with her service as an MP”, and said she would “almost certainly” lose her seat at the next general election.

Ahead of today’s sentencing, the court received 34 testimonials in support of Ferrier from other MPs.

The 61-year-old first became an MP in 2015 in the SNP landslide that saw the party take 56 of the 59 seats in Scotland.

She has since lost the whip and now sits as an independent.

In May 2020, she was one of the MPs who called on the prime minister’s adviser Dominic Cummings to resign after controversy over his visit to the North East of England during lockdown.

At the time, she said his actions had “undermined the sacrifices that we have all been making in lockdown to protect each other from coronavirus”, describing his position as “untenable”.

After it emerged Ferrier had travelled with Covid symptoms, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon condemned her actions as “dangerous and indefensible”. The SNP leader later called for her to resign as an MP.

A prison sentence of 12 months would have automatically meant that her role as an MP would have come to an end.

Any amount of time in prison would have caused a recall petition, triggering a by-election if 10% of her constituents signed up. However, despite avoiding prison, this could still happen if she faces sanction from the House of Commons authorities, who could investigate her conduct now that the police process is over.

If there were to be a by-election, it would be highly contested by the SNP and Labour as the seat has bounced between the two at the last three general elections.

 

 



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