United Kingdom

Eric Joyce avoids jail for having 'spam' child porn film

Former Labour MP Eric Joyce (pictured) has been sentenced to eight months in prison, suspended for two years, and ordered to complete 150 hours of unpaid work for making an indecent image of a child

Ex-Labour shadow minister Eric Joyce has avoided jail for having a 51-second child-porn film involving a baby on his laptop.

The 59-year-old had on the device a 51-second film depicting what appeared to be seven different children, aged between 12 months old and seven years old.

He has been sentenced to eight months in prison, suspended for two years, and ordered to complete 150 hours of unpaid work for making an indecent image of a child.

The former shadow minister for Northern Ireland was a Labour MP from 2000 to 2012, before becoming an independent and stepping down in 2015. He spent 21 years in the army, and rose through the ranks to become a major.

He stepped back from Labour following a fight in the Commons Strangers bar where he headbutted two Conservatives and punched a Labour whip in the face.

The ex-MP was engaged to Sunday Times columnist India Knight in 2015.

Joyce was previously married to childhood sweetheart Christina, who died. His second wife Rosemary was the headmistress of Tonbridge Grammar School. 

Joyce, of Worlingworth, Suffolk, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing at Ipswich Crown Court to the indecent image offence, which took place between August 2013 and November 2018.

Judge Mr Justice Edis, sentencing the former shadow minister on Friday, said: 'You have pleaded guilty to an offence which involves the possession of a category A film of a little less than a minute's duration.

'That film showed the penetrative sexual abuse of very young children.

'That these acts of abuse happened is because there are people like you who want to watch these films.

'If there was no market, those children wouldn't be subjected to these very serious offences.'

But the judge added: 'You have sought help from people well able to provide it and there's evidence before the court that that has had an effect on helping you reduce, perhaps completely, your impulsive behaviour, and that's happened over a significant period due to the delay in these proceedings.'

Mr Justice Edis also sentenced Joyce to a sexual harm prevention order, which will last until further order of the court.

The 59-year-old (pictured arriving at court today), who was MP for Falkirk in Scotland between 2000 and 2012, had on the device a 51-second film depicting what appeared to be seven different children, aged between 12 months old and seven years old

From drink driving, to a brawl in Westminster and child pornography: The six times Joyce has been hauled before the courts

November 2010: The MP for Falkirk was stripped of his licence for a year and fined £400 after he admitted failing to provide a breath test. Police were called by Ineos petrochemical refinery in Grangemouth after he arrived there smelling of alcohol and they heard what 'sounded like heavy metal rubbing very loudly', suggesting he had hit something. 

March 2012: Joyce was arrested by police and spent the night in cells after brawling with fellow politicians at the Strangers bar in Westminster. He was fined £3,000 and given a 12-month community order by Westminster magistrates' court after he admitted drunkenly assaulting four politicians in the Commons Strangers' bar.

In the fight he headbutted Conservative MP Stuart Andrew, giving him a bloody nose and concussion, punched Tory councillor Luke Mackenzie, splitting his lip, and headbutted Tory councillor Ben Maney. He also turned on Labour whip Phillip Wilson, punching him in the face. 

August 2012: Joyce was called back to court after using scissors to remove the electronic tag that had been fitted to his leg as part of a community order. He was fined £600.

May 2013: Joyce was arrested at Edinburgh airport after he had an argument with airline staff. He had become abusive towards them when they asked for flight details as he tried to get back onto the plane, which had arrived from Heathrow, to get his mobile phone.

He admitted one charge of breaching the peace at Edinburgh Sheriff court and was fined £1,000. He was also ordered to pay £100 to an airport worker and £50 to a police officer. 

March 2014: Joyce was arrested for a disturbance at a karaoke event in the sports and social bar of the House of Commons, where he was seen wrestling with two police officers and holding one in a headlock. The Office of the speaker decided to ban him from purchasing or being served alcoholic beverages in the Palace of Westminster, including its eight bars.

October 2014: Police charged Joyce with two charges of common assault following an 'unjustified and unprovoked' attack on two boys, aged 14 and 15, in a food store in north London. Westminster magistrates' court heard how one boy had been trying to pass Joyce in a narrow aisle and after an exchange of words was knocked to the floor.

He was found guilty of the charges and sentenced to ten weeks in jail, suspended for two years. Joyce was also ordered to pay a £1,080 fine and attend a rehabilitation course which aims to reduce violent behaviour.

November 2018: Joyce is arrested over child pornography. He has pleaded guilty to one charge of making an indecent image of a child between August 7, 2013, and November 6, 2018, at Ipswich Crown court.

He was also given an 18-day rehabilitation activity requirement and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £1,800.

Joyce left Labour to serve as independent MP for Falkirk in 2012, stepping down before the 2015 general election. He spent 21 years in the Army, rising to the rank of major.

Michael Procter, prosecuting, said police seized a number of computer devices and hard drives from Joyce's address in Worlingworth in November 2018 after receiving intelligence.

He said the movie file was later found on an Apple Macbook Air laptop.

In police interview, Mr Procter said Joyce said he 'lived at that address with his partner, India Knight', that the Macbook Air device was his and 'he owned it from new'.

He said Joyce used software which hid internet activity and claimed in his first police interview that 'he had never seen child abuse material'.

In a second police interview, following analysis of Joyce's computer, Mr Procter said: 'He told police in relation to his first interview that some of it wasn't true.

'He had seen a mixture of images.'

He continued: 'He told the police that the circumstances in which he had come into possession of the category A movie was when he had been on a Russian or Ukrainian website.

'He received spam emails, he received a link; he said that the majority of it was legal but it was clear to him some of it wasn't.

'He also told police he was intoxicated when he was involved in this activity.

'He couldn't remember looking for that kind of material.'

Joyce told police 'there was nobody else that was responsible', Mr Procter said, adding: 'He told police he was not sexually attracted to children and since his arrest he had sought help.'

Mr Procter said there was evidence of searches 'for material for five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10-year-old girls'.

'There's reference to titles which the Crown suggest are indicative of category A movies - 'two men rape girl',' he said.

'There's certainly browser activity which suggests he's been searching for that material but we have no other information as to whether in fact he viewed that material.

'It seems highly likely.'

The court heard that Joyce's previous convictions include drink-driving, common assaults and a public order offence.

Mark Shelley, mitigating, said Joyce had no previous convictions for sexual offences.

'A clever, hard-working man takes to drink and his life is destroyed,' he said, adding that Joyce has now given up drinking.

Addressing the prosecution's mention of searches for indecent images, Mr Shelley said: 'There's a whole lot of background that's not entirely accepted regards the search terms.'

He added that 'there's clearly a background'.

Mr Justice Edis told Joyce: 'I can't deal with you on the basis that it's an isolated, out-of-character or somehow accidental offence. It wasn't.'

He said Joyce had taken steps 'in the last two years to address the crisis into which your life had fallen'.

'Your previous convictions, acts of violence while in drink, it's clear you were drinking far too much far too often,' the judge said. 'That doesn't mitigate anything - it makes it more serious.'

But he noted that Joyce had sought help and that the author of a pre-sentence report about Joyce said 'there's prospect of rehabilitation'.

'It seems to me, knowing all that I do about you, that I should give effect to that prospect of rehabilitation,' he said.Joyce, dressed in a blue suit, white shirt and black tie, made no comment as he walked from the court building.

Joyce was fined £3,000 and given a 12-month community order in 2012 by Westminster magistrates' court after he admitted drunkenly assaulting four politicians in the Commons Strangers' bar. 

Joyce (pictured arriving at court) has been sentenced to eight months in prison, suspended for two years, and ordered to complete 150 hours of unpaid work for making an indecent image of a child

He headbutted Conservative MP Stuart Andrew during the brawl, giving him a bloody nose and concussion, punched Tory councillor Luke Mackenzie, splitting his lip, and headbutted Tory councillor Ben Maney. Joyce also turned on Labour whip Phillip Wilson, punting him in the face.

He was ordered to pay £1,400 to each of his victims, following the fight on February 22 after 10.30pm.

He 'went beserk' after Conservatives at a neighbouring table glanced over when his friend Stuart Niven - an amateur opera singer - started singing loudly in the bar.

Witnesses said Joyce, who had drunk a bottle of red wine, had 'glazed over' eyes.

Eight police officers arrived to find Joyce smelling 'strongly of alcohol'. They tried to restrain him as he swore at them and furiously kicked doors, breaking a glass pane.

As he was dragged away by officers he shouted: 'You can't touch me, I'm an MP!' 

The MP even managed to snatch a constable's notebook and scrawl: 'We are a Tory nation, that cannot be forever …good cops unite…It's surely …to hate the Tories.'

He claimed at Belgravia police station that someone else had started the fight, telling officers: 'I think he was a silly fat Tory MP.

'He was pushing like a girl and giving me a bear-hug. I nutted a guy. It was a wee scuffly thing*If people said I was hammered, that was probably true.'

The former MP also has a conviction from 2010, for refusing to give police a urine sample.

From Sandhurst graduate promoted to major to being arrested five times in his last five years as an MP: Spectacular fall from grace of Eric Joyce

Eric Joyce pictured after being elected as the MP for Falkirk in 2000

The former politician, today told he could be jailed for at least a year, started life in a very different place to where he is today.

As a teenager he joined the army and in 1987 was accepted into the prestigious Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, an institution reserved for the army's very best and royalty - including Prince William and Prince Harry.

It was to be the start of a 21-year career of dedicated service - that would see him posted in Great Britain, Northern Ireland, Germany and Central America.

He was even promoted to captain in 1990, and then major in 1992. 

But in 1998 he came to the attention of commanding officers, after branding the military 'snobbish and rife with racism and sexism' in a series of articles written for left-wing pamphlet the Fabian Society.

He then began to make regular media appearances and launched a magazine, the Armed Services Forum, which contained severe criticism of the forces.

This proved all too much for the higher ranks, which suspended him before the end of the year.

They requested his resignation in January 1999, to be handed in by 13 March. He resigned from the forces on March 12.

Catapulted to fame by the dispute, he made it onto Labour's candidate list for the first Scottish Parliament elections in 1999.

He was then put forward for the 2000 by-election in Falkirk, triggered when popular MP Dennis Canavan quit the party to stand as an independent. He won - but with a 705-vote majority. 

Former Labour politician Eric Joyce pictured above following his arrest for headbutting MPs in 2012 (right) and after denying threatening or abuse behaviour to staff at Edinburgh airport in 2013 (left)

Once in parliament he had a successful career, serving as an aide to four ministers, including two defence secretaries.

He became known as the UK's 'most expensive MP' after his repeated flights between London and Falkirk led to him having the largest expenses of any minister.

In 2009, he quit his defence role over the Afghanistan campaign, saying the UK could no longer justify growing casualties in the area. 

When Labour was pushed back into opposition he appeared to make a comebaack, when in 2010 he was promoted to shadow Northern Ireland minister.

But it was to be short lived - he was arrested in November 2010 after he refused to allow police to test his breath following a driving incident.

He was banned from driving and fined £400 after admitting the charge - triggering the new leadership to remove him from his shadow cabinet post.

It was to be the beginning of a slippery slope that would see Joyce hauled before courts four more times in his last years as an MP.

Joyce has previously been sentenced in Westminster Magistrates' court (stock image)

In 2012 he would have the Labour whip removed after he 'went berserk' in a London bar, attacking three Tories and a Labour whip while declaring there are 'too many' Conservatives in the room.

Next he was arrested at Edinburgh airport in 2013 after drunkenly abusing staff when he tried to get back on the plane.

They had demanded to see flight details to let him back onboard, following the trip from London.

Edinburgh Sheriff's court took a dim view of the incident, fining him £1,000 and ordering him to pay £150 to victims.

In 2014 he was arrested twice, for putting an officer in a headlock outside a Westminster Karaoke bar, and carrying out an 'unprovoked' attack on a teenager at a food store in North London.

There was a brief respite in 2015, when it was announced that he was engaged to Sunday Times columnist India Knight.

But in 2018 he was arrested by police on charges of making child pornography.

The charge says the video was made between August 2013 and November 2018.

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