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MP Eric Joyce fined for drink-fuelled fracas

Fined: Falkirk MP Eric Joyce. Picture: PA

Fined: Falkirk MP Eric Joyce. Picture: PA

  • by TOM PETERKIN
 

DISGRACED MP Eric Joyce has said he is considering his future as a politician, after he admitted racially abusing a black police officer during an alcohol-fuelled fracas at Edinburgh airport.

However, despite being fined £1,500 yesterday for a breach of the peace, the 53-year-old said his “instinct” was to carry on being an MP.

At Edinburgh Sheriff Court, the Falkirk MP admitted committing the offence that saw him hurl insults at baggage handlers after drinking on the flight from London.

Joyce was also ordered to pay £100 in compensation to airport staff and £50 to the police officer whom he racially abused on 19 May last year.

Dennis Canavan, who represented Falkirk at Westminster and Holyrood over three decades, last night called for Joyce to stand down.

He told The Scotsman: “He should go now. He’s obviously unfit to do the job. The people of Falkirk are the salt of the earth, I had the privilege of representing them for over 30 years. They’re very understanding and forgiving but this is just the last straw. This is not just a one-off

aberration – he is a serial offender and the people of Falkirk deserve better.”

Mr Canavan said he believed Joyce was hanging on to his post because of the salary and expenses.

Joyce has been among the UK’s most expensive MPs for several years and topped the table in 2007-8 when he claimed

£187,334 in total. The breach of the peace conviction is the latest brush with the law for the MP. He was expelled from the Labour Party after being convicted in March 2012 of assaulting politicians a month earlier at the Strangers’ Bar in the House of Commons while under the influence of alcohol. He was also arrested after a fracas at the Social Club at the Commons in March 2013, but no charges were brought.

In November 2010, he resigned as shadow Northern Ireland minister after receiving a drinking ban for failing to provide a breath test when pulled over by police.

He will not be disqualified from the Commons, as that is only possible if MPs are jailed for a year or more. On his latest conviction, he said he was considering his future – but would “probably” choose to remain in parliament.

He said: “I should apologise, as we did in court, to the people affected – the police officers and the individuals affected at the airport. Obviously, I am very embarrassed and I am very sorry that that happened and I have been fined and ordered to pay compensation accordingly.”

Asked if he intended to stay on as an MP, he said: “I’m cunning like that. I will reflect on that, actually. I think probably, but I will really just reflect on what I should and will do next. My instinct is to stay, but I don’t know how I will feel in a few days.” He added: “My constituents have seen this before, so they may think any other apologies and any other expressions of regret are not fully meant… they are. It is an unfortunate repetition.”

However, Joyce did agree that he thought it would be “impossible” to continue in public life after next year’s General Election.

Asked if he had a drink problem, he said: “It is not really simply drink as such. I think probably there are a number of issues around last year that I have been addressing and this has taken quite a long time to come to court.”

The court heard that the MP had been drinking on a flight from Heathrow to Edinburgh. When he disembarked, he realised he had left his phone on board. He asked baggage handlers for help and became abusive when they asked for details of his flight. Even when police officers became involved, he continued to hurl insults.

Joyce called a baggage handler and officers “Fat, f****** w***er” and goaded officers to “f****** arrest me”. He referred to an officer of Afro-Caribbean origin as “f****** fat and black”. Joyce began to “flail his arms” when one officer attempted to put him in handcuffs, and had to be restrained on the floor.

Sheriff Frank Crowe described his actions as a “deeply unfortunate, prolonged, drink-fuelled rant”, adding: “At least you have taken this opportunity to apologise.”

Defence lawyer Euan Gosney said Joyce was in a “high state of anxiety” due to the recent death of his brother and previous trouble with police. “He accepts that he allowed this baggage to get on top of him, to get the better of him,” he said. “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.”

Former soldier Joyce became an independent MP after his Labour Party expulsion following the conviction for

assault.

 

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