UK: MP spared jail for drunken attacks

UK: MP Eric Joyce was spared jail today for beating up four politicians while drunk and telling police “You can’t touch me, I’m an MP”.

He also swore at officers after going berserk and headbutting Tory MP Stuart Andrew and councillor Ben Maney.

The suspended Labour party member was warned he could face prison for the attacks.

But chief magistrate Howard Riddle fined him �3,000 and ordered him to pay �1,400 to victims after he entered early guilty pleas.

Joyce was also given a 12-month community order - banning him from entering pubs and licensed premises for three months - and imposed with a curfew order from Friday to Sunday.

The politician - who accepted he was “hammered” during the brawl - expressed his “shame and embarrassment” through his barrister, Jeremy Dein QC, at Westminster Magistrates’ Court.

“He is unreservedly apologetic for what occurred on the night in question,” Mr Dein said.

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The 51-year-old accepted that the fact that he was drinking was not an excuse “for the dreadful scenario that unfolded”.

Joyce launched into a frenzied attack after shouting that the Strangers’ Bar was full of 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”, prosecutor Zoe Martin told the court.

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

Violence flared after the �65,000-a-year MP for Falkirk started singing “very loudly”, drinkers said.

Speaking afterwards, Joyce said he was “deeply apologetic” for his actions.

Outside court, he said: “Clearly it’s a matter of considerable personal shame.

“I’ve been duly punished today. I’ve been lucky to avoid prison. I’m very ashamed, of course.”

He said he wanted to apologise to a “long list” of people he had let down, including his constituents and fellow MPs.

But he said he did not intend to stand down as an MP before the next election.

“It would be easy but I was elected in 2000 and I will continue serving,” he said.

Asked if he thought he had a problem with alcohol, he told reporters: “I think drink was an aggravating factor, that’s something I have to deal with personally. Not everyone who drinks gets involved in fights.”

Labour Party sources indicated that any decision on Joyce’s future in the party would not be made until after he was sentenced.

A spokesman said: “Eric Joyce was immediately suspended. There will be a full party investigation pending the end of the legal process.”

Joyce’s guilty plea does not necessarily mark an end to his career as an MP.

Under the Representation of the People Act 1981, MPs are disqualified from the House of Commons only if they are convicted of a criminal offence and sentenced to 12 months or more in jail.

Joyce has already said that he will stand down from Parliament at the next general election, expected in 2015.