9 Mar 2012

MP fined and given three-month pub ban

Health and Social Care Editor

Labour MP Eric Joyce escapes a jail sentence, receiving a £3,000 fine and a three-month pub ban for assaulting four fellow politicians in the House of Commons bar.

Tempers flared in the House of Commons strangers’ bar after the 51-year-old MP for Falkirk start singing loudly, according to witnesses.

Prosecutor Zoe Martin told the court: “Mr Joyce started to sing very loudly. That was noticed by several people in the bar.”

After being asked to move by another MP, Andrew Percy, Joyce shouted: “There are too many Tories in this bar” and later that the bar was “full of f****** Tories”.

Joyce first lashed out at Tory MP Stuart Andrew, who told him: “You do not treat an MP like that in a place like this.” He then hit other politicians who became involved, punching councillor Luke Mackenzie in the mouth and headbutting another councillor, Ben Maney, when he tried to restrain him. A fellow Labour MP, party whip Phillip Wilson, tried to calm Joyce down and was also punched in the face.

Tory MP Jackie Doyle-Price then intervened saying: “If you are going to punch my staff, punch me first and you don’t want to punch a lady.”

‘You cannot touch me, I’m an MP’

As officers tried to restrain him, Joyce headbutted Mr Andrew. He then told police: “You cannot touch me, I’m an MP.”

Witnesses to the brawl said “he was very angry, drunk, angrier than anyone”. One onlooker said his “eyes looked like nobody was home.”

His barrister, Jeremy Dein, asked the chief magistrate Howard Riddle to avoid a custodial sentence. “For the sake of a few seconds, havoc has been wreaked in his life,” Mr Dein said.

Mr Riddle ordered Joyce to pay £1,400 to the victims and gave him a 12-month community order, including a ban on entering pubs and licenses premises for three months. He has to obey a curfew order from Friday until Sunday.

Mr Riddle told Joyce: “What you have done has not only brought physical harm (and) shame on yourself … it has damaged the place where you work, the place where laws are made.”

‘I will continue serving’

Outside court Mr Joyce said: “Clearly it’s a matter of considerable personal shame. I’ve been duly punished today. I’ve been lucky to avoid prison. I’m very ashamed of course.” He said he wanted to apologise to his constituents but said he does not intent to stand down as MP before the next election. “It would be easy but I was elected in 2000 and I will continue serving,” he said.

Asked by reporters if he thought he had a problem with alcohol he said: “I think drink was an aggravating factor, that’s something I have to deal with personally. Not everyone who drinks gets involved in fights.”

MP faces explusion

He has been suspended from the Labour party and faces expulsion after a full party investigation takes place. A senior source in the national party said: “This is a process that will lead to his expulsion from the party.”

Under the Representation of the People Act 1981, MPs are disqualified from the House of Commons only if they are sentenced to more than 12 months in prison.

He has indicated he will stand down at the next election.