In the Media

Eric Joyce fined ?3,000 for assault in House of Commons bar

PUBLISHED March 9, 2012

Labour MP banned from bars and given weekend curfew after admitting assault in Commons fight

Magistrates ordered the MP Eric Joyce to pay a total of ?4,400 and observe a weekend curfew after he pleaded guilty to assaulting four people in a Commons bar last month.

Joyce was suspended from the Labour party following the fight in a House of Commons bar on 22 February in which a Conservative MP was headbutted and punched.

The 51-year-old former soldier and MP for Falkirk was charged with assaulting the Conservative Stuart Andrew shortly before closing time at the Strangers' bar, which is open to MPs and their guests.

He also attacked Tory councillors Luke Mackenzie and Ben Maney before turning on the Labour whip Phillip Wilson. The court heard that he told police: "You can't touch me, I'm an MP."

Westminster magistrates fined him ?3,000; ordered him to pay ?1,400 in compensation; gave him a 12-month community order; banned him from entering any bar, pub or restaurant for three months and imposed a curfew order from Friday to Sunday.

Jeremy Dein QC, defending, said: "He is unreservedly apologetic for what occurred on the night in question."

Joyce ? who accepted while speaking to police that he was "hammered" ? expressed "shame and embarrassment for himself and his office and all who he represents", Dein said. He agreed that drinking was not an excuse "for the dreadful scenario that unfolded", the barrister added. Zoe Martin, prosecuting, said Joyce launched into a frenzied attack after shouting that the Strangers' bar "was full of fucking Tories".

Having attacked two MPs and two councillors he then wrote in a police officer's notebook: "We are a Tory nation, that cannot be forever ? good cops unite."

Witnesses to the brawl said "he was very angry, drunk, angrier than anyone", Martin said.

One onlooker said his "eyes looked like nobody was home" while another said his "eyes looked dead".

Under parliamentary rules, MPs automatically lose their seat if they are sentenced to more than 12 months in jail, but there is no requirement for them to leave the Commons if they are charged with a criminal offence or convicted and given a lesser punishment.

Despite his suspension as a Labour MP, Joyce can continue to sit as an independent with a full MP's salary of ?65,738 a year, as well as allowances. He said after the brawl that he would step down as an MP at the 2015 election.

After the incident at the Commons, Joyce also admitted to a relationship with a 17-year-old girl who had volunteered at his campaign office during the 2010 general election. He denied that the relationship had been sexual but confessed it had been misguided.

Confessing to the Daily Record about the relationship with the teenager, Joyce said: "She was young and I kind of got my communications with her wrong.

"She was super-helpful, very friendly. I was very friendly with her for several months 18 months ago. She was a young, impressionable girl."

The disclosure of his relationship sparked an angry reaction from the Scottish Labour leader, Johann Lamont, who said: "This is a man who has abused his position of power and authority. I'm disgusted, regardless of any other issues." © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds