In the Media

Bar brawl MP Eric Joyce cut off electronic tag to compete in parliamentary boat race

PUBLISHED July 31, 2012

The disgraced MP Eric Joyce, who assaulted fellow politicians in a House of Commons bar earlier this year, was fined £600 yesterday for cutting of his electronic tag while competing in a parliamentary boat race.

Joyce, 51, who was forced to wear the tag after admitting four counts of assault in the Strangers' Bar, said he used scissors to remove it as he wanted to avoid negative publicity.

Stirling Sheriff Court heard that the former Labour politician was rowing for the House of Commons against the House of Lords in the charity race on the Thames on July 4.

When he removed the curfew tag it set off an electronic buzzer that alerted the security firm Serco.

Joyce, from Stirling, said outside court yesterday that he did not want to let down the organisers of the race, but admitted he had made "an error".

His lawyer Dick Sandeman said: "This is a somewhat unusual case. He was at first not required to wear the tag, but he was eventually told he had to wear one and complied.

"He had agreed to take part in a charity rowing match. It was set to take place on July 11, the day after his tagging order ended, but the race was moved a week earlier. He was rowing for the House of Commons against the Lords."

His lawyer claimed the bulky nature of the tag would have made it difficult for Joyce to row, and said he was aware of the press attention that the tag would attract.

Sheriff John Halley told Joyce it was not up to him to decide whether or not to comply with a court order.

Joyce paid the fine before leaving court and afterwards described it as "quite a stiff penalty".

He added: "I didn't want to overshadow the charity's work. If I turned up wearing my tag, that's what all the papers focus would be on. I didn't feel that was fair. We didn't even win in the end. We should have though."

The MP for Falkirk, a former Army major, narrowly avoided a jail sentence for aiming punches and headbutts at a Tory MP, two Conservative councillors and a Labour whip in February.

He was given a 12-month community order after admitting four counts of assault at the Strangers' Bar, and was also fined £3000, ordered to pay £350 compensation to each of his victims and placed under curfew for three months. He resigned from the Labour Party in March.