MP Eric Joyce given bar ban and £3,000 fine over Commons brawl

Eric Joyce, MP: "I have to reflect on the best way of dealing with alcohol"

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MP Eric Joyce has been fined £3,000 and banned from pubs for three months after he admitted assaulting politicians in a House of Commons bar.

The Falkirk MP headbutted Conservative MP for Pudsey Stuart Andrew during a brawl at the Strangers' Bar.

He also hit Tory councillors Luke Mackenzie and Ben Maney, and Labour whip Phil Wilson, MP for Sedgefield.

After sentence at Westminster Magistrates' Court, Joyce said he intended to stay on as an MP.

The former soldier - who was suspended by the Labour Party following the fracas - has already announced his intention not to seek re-election in 2015.

The BBC understands he will be expelled from the Labour Party once disciplinary proceedings are completed.

Joyce, of Bo'ness, near Falkirk, was given a 12-month community order which included a curfew from Friday to Sunday.

The victims

  • Conservative MP for Pudsey, Stuart Andrew
  • Conservative councillor on Basildon Council, Luke Mackenzie
  • Conservative councillor on Thurrock Council, Ben Maney
  • Labour MP and party whip Phil Wilson

As well as a £3,000 fine, he was ordered to pay £1,400 in compensation to his victims.

He had earlier pleaded guilty to four charges, including one of assault by beating.

Police were called to the Palace of Westminster following reports of a disturbance shortly before closing time on 22 February.

The MP had been singing loudly, and lashed out after declaring there were "too many" Tories in the bar.

Analysis

Eric Joyce started out in his political career as a self-styled, idealistic campaigner.

But 11 years on from his election as a Labour MP he has found himself outside a London court talking of his "personal shame" for assaulting four fellow politicians in a House of Commons bar.

The 51-year-old - who avoided jail but received a fine and a three-month pub ban - was once a respected Army major and a Ministry of Defence aide.

In recent years, he has been better known for fighting with the Labour Party, and earning the unenviable tag of "Britain's most expensive MP".

Two-years-ago he was convicted of drink-driving and after being charged with common assault following the 22 February bar brawl, allegations of an inappropriate friendship with a teenage girl were splashed in a tabloid newspaper.

It all started out out so differently for the former Army major, who spent 21 years in the forces, latterly with the Royal Army Education Corps.

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He had to be restrained by several officers following the attacks, which witnesses described as like a scene from the Wild West.

Prosecutor Zoe Martin said Joyce shouted at the police: "You can't touch me, I'm an MP."

Mr Andrew was left bleeding from the nose while Mr Wilson also suffered a cut to his face after attempting to restrain Joyce.

The court was told that tables were upturned and Joyce had looked "possessed" and "out of it".

Joyce was held at a central London police station for several hours before questioning, during which time he broke a window pane.

He told officers he had drunk "three or four glasses of wine".

Jeremy Dein QC, defending, said Joyce accepted he was "hammered" and wished to express his "shame and embarrassment".

"He is unreservedly apologetic for what occurred on the night in question," he told the court.

Victim Mr Maney is a Conservative councillor on Thurrock Council and was in the bar as a guest of Thurrock MP Jackie Doyle-Price.

Fellow victim Mr Mackenzie is a Conservative councillor on Basildon Council and an aide to South Basildon MP Stephen Metcalfe.

'Litany of sins'

Joyce has been MP for Falkirk since December 2000, and before entering politics had served in the Royal Army Educational Corps.

Under parliamentary rules, he would have automatically lost his seat if sentenced to more than 12 months in jail.

Outside the court, Joyce said the incident had caused him "considerable personal shame" and he felt lucky to have avoided prison.

He added: "I'm ashamed of that - and particularly apologetic to the people who were so badly affected, to my constituents, to my family, of course, and all the other people that were involved.

"Clearly that's a long list and a significant litany of sins on the evening."

Stuart Andrew later said he did not hold a grudge against Joyce despite the "traumatic" experience of being headbutted.

He added: "Indeed this case does raise valid concerns in relation to the level of pastoral support and understanding available to MPs in Westminster who may be experiencing personal difficulties and I hope that this issue will now be addressed."

Mr Andrew said he would be receiving £350 as his share of compensation, which he would be donating to charity.

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