MP Margaret Ferrier pleads guilty to exposing public to Covid

The Rutherglen and Hamilton West politician admitted to culpably and recklessly exposing people to coronavirus.

MP Margaret Ferrier has admitted putting peoples lives at risk by travelling from Glasgow to London while suffering from Coronavirus symptoms.

The former SNP politician, 61, made the journey to and from by train having been told to self-isolate between September 27 and 29, 2020.

Ferrier visited the Houses of Parliament where she spoke to the chamber and dined with a fellow politician moments before receiving a positive test result.

The independent Rutherglen and Hamilton West MP also stayed overnight in a London hotel before travelling back to Glasgow the following day.

Ferrier also visited other places such as a mass in the city’s St Mungo’s church and a bar in Prestwick, Ayrshire.

Scotland was under strict instructions at the time which Ferrier ignored in what Glasgow Sheriff Court was told was a “reckless disregard for public safety”.

On Thursday, Ferrier pled guilty to culpable and reckless conduct.

The charge states Ferrier failed to self isolate and “exposed people to risk of infection, illness and death” by travelling throughout Glasgow as well as to and from London.

The court heard Ferrier booked a test online in late afternoon on September 26.

Ferrier stated in the application that she was “symptomatic” with a “cough” she experienced that day and later attended a test centre.

Prosecutor Mark Allan said: “Ferrier subsequently failed to isolate pending the outcome of her test.

“The conduct amounted to a reckless disregard of public safety.”

The hearing was told Ferrier attended a midday mass at St Mungo’s parish church where she gave a reading to the congregation of 45 people.

Social distancing measures were in place and Ferrier wore a mask when she was not speaking.

Ferrier then attended Vic’s Bar in Prestwick where she stayed for two-and-a-half hours.

Mr Allan said: “After media reporting of Ferrier testing positive on he proceeding day, the general manager was concerned about her staff and customers’ health and the impact upon the business in difficult times for the hospitality industry.”

Ferrier took a ten-to-15-minute taxi journey from her home in Cambuslang, South Lanarkshire, to Glasgow Central station the next day while wearing a face mask.

The politician entered a Marks and Spencer at the station before boarding a train with 183 people on board to London Euston.

Ferrier checked into the Park Plaza Hotel, Westminster Bridge, before attending the Houses of Parliament at 7.15pm.

Mr Allan said: “She spoke in the chamber of the of the commons where social distancing was in operation and apart from when speaking, she wore a face mask.”

Ferrier sat at a table usually allocated for SNP members with DUP MP Jim Shannon where they conversed for 20 minutes.

Mr Allan said: “The positive result from the test was delivered at 8.03pm by text and email.

“She attended the SNP whips’ office and spoke to then chief whip Patrick Grady MP.

“She informed Mr Grady that she would return to Scotland in the morning.”

Ferrier returned to her hotel at 9.20pm where she spent the night before heading back to London Euston.

The hearing was told at its busiest time, the train held 153 passengers.

Contact tracers for NHS Test and Protect attempted to contact Ferrier on four occasions but were unable to do so, leaving two voicemails.

Ferrier later contacted Test and Protect and disclosed that she had a “slight and infrequent cough” the day before her test.

Mr Allan added: “She said she did not believe that she would be positive.”

Ferrier then informed Grady and the Parliamentary Test and Trace service that she was positive.

This led to Shannon being ordered to take a test and isolate in his hotel room – he later tested negative.

Grady was told the following day at a meeting at the Speaker’s Office in the House of Commons that Ferrier’s actions required to be reported to the police.

Ferrier contacted police and informed them of her breach before sending out a statement on her social media.

She said: “Despite feeling well, I should have self-isolated while waiting for my test result and deeply regret my actions.

“I take full responsibility and I urge everyone not to make the same mistakes that I have and do all they can to limit the spread of Covid-19.”

An initial investigation from Metropolitan Police was handed over to Police Scotland.

Public health expert Dr Andrew Riley told the police that Ferrier “significantly increased the risk of harm to both individual and public health.”

Ferrier handed herself in to police on January 4, 2020, where she was arrested.

Brian McConnachie QC, defending, reserved his plea in mitigation.

Sentence was deferred pending background reports by Sheriff Principal Craig Turnbull until next month.

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