Scotland

MP Eric Joyce fined over Edinburgh Airport abuse

  • 21 March 2014
  • From the section Scotland
Media captionJoyce apologises and says he is embarrassed by his behaviour

Falkirk MP Eric Joyce has been fined £1,500 at Edinburgh Sheriff Court after admitting abusive behaviour at the city's airport.

He entered a guilty plea to one charge of breach of the peace when he appeared at Edinburgh Sheriff Court.

The 53-year-old former Labour politician was also ordered to pay compensation of £100 to an airport worker and £50 to a police officer.

The incident happened at the airport on 19 May last year.

Another two charges which alleged that he shouted offensive remarks and that he obstructed and struggled with police officers were dropped after the Crown accepted not guilty pleas.

Speaking outside court, Joyce apologised to the airport staff and police officers involved in the incident, and to his constituents.

The former Army major also said he would reflect on whether to continue as an MP until the next general election.

He said: "My instinct is to stay but I don't know how I will feel in a few days.

"I am very embarrassed that this has happened. My constituents have seen this before, so they might think other apologies are not meant, but they are."

Asked if he had a problem with alcohol, Joyce said he had addressed such issues.

"I think I am well past that now," he said.

Challenged officers

The court had earlier heard how Joyce had been drinking on an evening flight from London's Heathrow Airport. After leaving the aircraft when it arrived in Edinburgh, he realised he had left his mobile phone on board.

He asked airport baggage handlers for help but became abusive when they asked for flight details.

Police officers became involved but Joyce continued to hurl insults.

He repeatedly shouted and swore at a baggage handler and police officers, and challenged officers to arrest him.

He also referred to a police officer of Afro-Caribbean origin as "fat and black".

Joyce began to "flail his arms" when one officer attempted to put him in handcuffs, and he continued to resist until he was restrained on the floor.

Sheriff Frank Crowe described the MP's actions as a "deeply unfortunate, prolonged, drink-fuelled rant".

"At least you have taken this opportunity to apologise," the sheriff said.

As well as imposing a fine, the sheriff ordered Joyce to pay £100 compensation to airport staff and £50 to the police officer he racially insulted.

Defence lawyer Euan Gosney said Joyce was in a "high state of anxiety" because of the recent death of his brother and previous trouble with police.

Mr Gosney added: "He accepts that he allowed this baggage to get on top of him, to get the better of him.

"When he was faced with what he perceived to be a lack of assistance, he allowed himself to become emotional, to overreact, to become abusive."

"A conviction of this nature will inevitably make a return to any form of public life difficult, if not impossible."

Two years ago, Joyce was arrested over allegations he assaulted four fellow politicians in a House of Commons bar.

He was later fined £3,000 at Westminster Magistrates' Court, and banned from pubs for three months.

He was expelled from the Labour party following the incident, and announced he would not seek re-election at the next general election.

Alcohol limit

Labour's subsequent search for a candidate to replace Joyce led to allegations of vote-rigging and the party changing its relationship with the unions.

In March 2013, Joyce was arrested over another alleged brawl in a Commons bar, but did not face charges.

He was convicted in 2010 of driving while over the legal alcohol limit.

Joyce's arrival at Westminster in 2000 came shortly after he quit the Army, making claims of snobbery, sexism and racism in the armed forces.

He was elected to parliament as Labour MP for Falkirk West in a by-election.

He increased his majority in the general elections of 2001 and 2005 when the constituency was renamed Falkirk after boundary changes, and held on by a comfortable margin in 2010.

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