Eric Joyce MP

“Who else could have atacked four peole and got off so lightly?” – Converse Prisoners Newspaper

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 called officers “c****” 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.

Joyce also attacked Tory councillor Luke Mackenzie before turning on Labour whip Phillip Wilson.

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.

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 f****** 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.

Joyce, while sobering up in the cells. told police of one of his victims: “I think he was a silly fat Tory MP. He was pushing like a girl and giving me a bearhug.”

A barman had told officers there was a “happy and friendly” atmosphere before Joyce “flipped” on February 22.

Prosecutor Ms Martin said: “Mr Joyce started to sing very loudly… that was noticed by several people in the bar. Nobody seemed bothered by it.”

Joyce then approached Tory MP Alec Shelbrooke, saying: “Don’t look at any of my guests like that again.”

MP Andrew Percy walked past and asked Joyce to move.

Joyce replied: “No, you f****** can’t”, Ms Martin said.

Witnesses said Joyce then shouted: “There are too many Tories in this bar” and later: “The bar was full of f****** Tories.”

Mr Andrews protested, saying: “You can’t behave in that way” before Joyce launched into a string of attacks.

Mr Riddle told Joyce: “What you have done has not only brought physical harm (and) shame on yourself… but it has also damaged the place where you work, the place where laws are made.”

He took into account Joyce’s previous conviction for drink- driving but gave the defendant credit for his early pleas.

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.

Joyce – who had been drinking with friends at a table in the bar – flew into a rage when Mr Andrews said: “You do not treat an MP like that in a place like this.”

After the first fist was thrown, Mr Mackenzie became involved, moving between the two.

Joyce “punched him with a glancing blow to the nose” before being restrained, Ms Martin told the court.

“He then proceeded to punch Mr Mackenzie in the mouth, causing a small cut to his lip and swelling,” she added.

“A number of witnesses said he was ‘generally lashing out at this stage’.”

Mr Maney then became involved trying to restrain Joyce again.

Joyce “looked straight at him and headbutted him, causing a cut to his inside upper lip,” the prosecutor said.

Witnesses said “Mr Maney stumbled back after the headbutt… looking white as a sheet and shocked,” she added.

One witness described Joyce’s demeanour as looking “possessed and completely out of it”.

Another said his “eyes looked like nobody was home” and his “eyes looked dead”.

Ms Martin said: “Mr Wilson put his hand on Mr Joyce’s shoulder and said ‘Calm down Eric, what’s going on?”

Mr Joyce swung round and punched him in the face.

Tory MP Jackie Doyle-Price then intervened, saying: “If you are going to punch my staff, punch me first and you don’t want to punch a lady.”

Police arrived at the scene to find tables and chairs upturned and Joyce smelling “strongly of alcohol and his eyes were glazed”.

As officers tried to restrain him, Joyce head-butted Mr Andrew.

“All of the witnesses describe Mr Andrew at the time to have been placid,” Ms Martin.

Joyce then told police: “You can’t touch me, I’m an MP.”

As he was taken away, he shouted “He deserved it” and swore at the officers.

Joyce, who had been sinking glasses of red wine, then wrote in a police officer’s notebook: “We are a Tory nation, that cannot be forever… good cops unite.”

He then told officers: “I nutted a guy, it was a wee scuffly thing… If people said I was hammered that was probably true.”

Mr Dein – who said his client is likely to stand down as Falkirk MP at the next election – urged Chief Magistrate Howard Riddle to avoid a custodial sentence.

“For the sake of a few seconds, havoc has been wreaked in his life,” Mr Dein said.

The QC added: “He has not just let him and himself down but all of those who he represents.”

Joyce faces expulsion from Labour after the party launched an internal disciplinary investigation.

A Scottish Labour Party spokesman said: “Eric Joyce was immediately suspended from the party.

“He remains suspended following the completion of the legal process and the Labour Party’s disciplinary process will now take place.”

A senior source in the national party said: “This is a process that will lead to his expulsion from the party.”

Mr Andrew said today he does not hold a grudge against Joyce despite the “traumatic” experience of being head-butted.

Speaking outside his constituency office in Leeds, he said: “Following today’s court case I appreciate Eric Joyce’s guilty plea and the remorse he has shown for the serious nature of his actions, as no person should assault another.

“I do not harbour any grudge or ill will towards him and hope that any personal challenges he faces can be overcome in the coming months.

“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.

“I have been advised that I am to be awarded a payment of £350, which I will be giving to charity.”

Mr Andrew also thanked colleagues, constituents and members of the public for “their many kind messages”.

Responding to questions from journalists, Mr Andrew said: “MPs are not above the law – they should be treated in exactly the same way as any other member of the public.”

Asked how he was feeling now, he said: “I’m fine, it’s been a difficult fortnight that’s for sure. It’s been quite a traumatic occasion but let’s get it behind us now and move on.”

Describing what happened on the night, Mr Andrew said: “I tried to defend a colleague who was merely trying to get to his seat, Mr Joyce lost his temper and unfortunately lashed out at a number of us and eventually head-butted myself.”

Mr Andrew said he had not seen anything like this before in the Palace of Westminster.

“This sort of behaviour does not happen – it was out of the blue completely.”

Asked if Joyce should resign from his position, Mr Andrew said: “That’s a matter for Mr Joyce, he has to think now about how best to serve his constituents. Perhaps it will be for the authorities in the House to think about that. That’s a matter for him and for them.”