MP Eric Joyce fined for Edinburgh Airport row

Eric Joyce. Picture: Michael Gillen
Eric Joyce. Picture: Michael Gillen
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Falkirk MP Eric Joyce has been fined £1,500 at Edinburgh Sheriff Court after he admitted using threatening or abusive behaviour at Edinburgh Airport in May last year.

Joyce, 53, drank bottles of lager and wine in the hours leading up to his arrest for breaching the peace last year at Edinburgh Airport.

The city’s sheriff court heard how he repeatedly verbally abused a hard working member of ground staff moments after leaving his mobile phone on a flight from Heathrow.

The worker - who wasn’t named in court - was trying to help Joyce locate his handset - but the former Labour Party member continued to swear and insult him.

Joyce then started struggling with two policemen who arrested him after he also shouted and swore at them.

The story emerged after Joyce, of Stirling, pleaded guilty to a breach of the peace charge before Sheriff Frank Crowe.

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 to the allegations.

Depute procurator fiscal Bruce Macrossan told the court that Joyce had travelled to Edinburgh from Heathrow when he arrived at the airport shortly after 10pm on May 19 2013.

Mr Macrossan said that Joyce went to an office at baggage reclaim and told the staff member on duty there that he had left his mobile phone on the plane.

When the member of staff asked him what flight he had been on, Joyce replied: “the most recent one.”

The court heard that when the worker told him that he could only help if he knew exactly what flight he had been on, Joyce replied: “You’re f****** useless and not very helpful.”

Mr Macrossan then said that the worker tried to help him for a second time but Joyce refused to give him the information that he needed.

Mr Macrossan added: “The accused became aggressive and intimidating. He said ‘you are fat and useless’ to the staff member who felt intimidated by his aggressive demeanour. “

The court heard that the police were then called to investigate the incident.

“He began to tell the officers to ‘f*** off.’ He also said ‘ go on arrest me’.”

The court then heard that Joyce then became aggressive with the officers. He adopted an ‘aggressive’ stance and one of the officers had to put his palm on Joyce’s chest to keep him at arm’s length.

Mr Macrossan then told the court that Joyce was arrested and was taken into a van to be driven to St Leonard’s Police station in Edinburgh.

Mr Macrossan added: “He continued to struggle with the officers and attempted to break free. Handcuffs were placed on his wrist.”

The court heard that during the journey to the police office, Joyce continued to shout and swear at the cops.

Defence solicitor Euan Gosney told the court that Mr Joyce was travelling to Scotland on constituency business before the incident took place.

He said: “He consumed several bottles of lager on the flight and there was a small amount of wine that had been consumed at Heathrow.”

Mr Gosney also told the court that Joyce was trying to cope with the death of his brother Raymond, who had passed away after a struggle with Mestothelioma.

Mr Gosney added: “He was in a state of some anxiety. He was coming to terms with the loss of his brother who had died from Mestothelioma.

“When he was faced with a lack of assistance he became emotional and abusive towards the member of staff.

“He does regret his actions. He completely abused the position of trust that has been placed upon him by members of the public.

“He does apologise to the officers and staff that he abused.

“It will be difficult if not impossible for him to continue in public life with a conviction of this type and nature.”

Passing sentence, Sheriff Crowe told Joyce that he would have been fined £2,000 if he had gone to trial.

He added: “This was a prolonged, threatening drink fuelled rant.”

Sheriff Crowe also ordered Joyce pay the airport worker £100 compensation and he also ordered that the MP pay Constable Miller £50 compensation.

Following the hearing Joyce apologised and said he would be taking time to reflect on whether to continue as an MP until 2015.

Speaking outside court, Joyce said: “I should apologise to the people affected, to the police officers and to the individuals affected at the airport. I am very embarrassed and sorry that it happened and I’ve been fined and ordered to pay compensation costs.”

When a journalist asked him whether he had a drink problem, Joyce replied: “Not really simply drink as such. I think there were probably a number of issues last year that I had been addressing and this has taken a long time to come to court as it does; so that’s it done and I suppose that’s about the size of it really.”

When asked whether he still intended to continue as an MP, Joyce said: “I thought you might ask that. I’ll reflect on that actually. I think probably but I really don’t know. I will really just reflect on that on what I will do next.

“My instinct is to stay but I don’t know how I will feel in the next few days so I think that I will wait to see how I feel in a few days about the whole thing; about what other people think, other people in the constituency to be perfectly honest.

“My constituents have seen this before so they make think that any other apologies and expressions of regret are not totally meant - they are.

“It’s an unfortunate repetition. It was an obviously a period of about a year in my life punctuated at either end by two events - actually there was an additional event in the middle that most people know about - and I think I am well past that now.

“People will only be able to tell by my own behaviour within the next period of time in Parliament and beyond that.

“I think I have dealt with primary issues but you know some people would say that a leopard can’t change its spots but I think I have addressed some significant issues - and it’s only been a year - but I am fairly optimistic yeah.”