MP Eric Joyce fined £1,500 after admitting abusive behaviour at Edinburgh airport

The Falkirk MP said he is now debating his future at Westminster

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The Independent Online

Falkirk MP Eric Joyce was fined £1,500 at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on Friday after admitting abusive behaviour at the city’s airport.

The 53-year-old was also ordered to pay compensation after he entered a guilty plea to one charge of breach of the peace.

In the incident on 19 May last year, Mr Joyce repeatedly hurled insults at baggage handlers, and racially abused a black police officer.

Speaking outside the court, Mr Joyce said he will now “reflect” on whether to continue at Westminster until the election next year.

"My instinct is to stay but I don't know how I will feel in a few days," he said.

The former Labour MP has previously been fined over a brawl in the House of Commons two years ago, but has always said he will carry on sitting as an independent member.

"I am very embarrassed that this has happened," he said.

"My constituents have seen this before, so they might think other apologies are not meant, but they are."

Asked if he had a problem with alcohol, Joyce said: "I think I am well past that now."

The court had heard earlier that Mr Joyce had been drinking on an evening flight from Heathrow to Edinburgh and that after disembarking he realised that he had left his phone on board.

He asked airport baggage handlers for help but became abusive when they asked for his flight details.

Police officers became involved, but he continued to hurl insults.

Mr Joyce repeatedly shouted and swore at a baggage handler and officers, and goaded officers to arrest him.

He also referred to an officer of Afro-Caribbean origin as "fat and black".

The court heard that Mr Joyce began to "flail his arms" when one officer attempted to put him in handcuffs, and he continued to resist until he was restrained on the floor.

Sheriff Frank Crowe described his actions as a "deeply unfortunate, prolonged, drink-fuelled rant".

"At least you have taken this opportunity to apologise," the sheriff said.

As well as imposing a fine, the sheriff ordered Joyce to pay £100 compensation to airport staff and £50 to the police officer he racially insulted.

Defence lawyer Euan Gosney said Joyce was in a "high state of anxiety" because of 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."

Mr Gosney added: "A conviction of this nature will inevitably make a return to any form of public life difficult, if not impossible."

Mr Joyce became an independent MP after he was expelled from the Labour Party following his conviction for assaulting politicians in a House of Commons bar in 2012.

The former Army major was fined £3,000 and banned from pubs for three months following the brawl in the Strangers' Bar.

Mr Joyce's arrival at Westminster in 2000 came shortly after he quit the Army, making claims of snobbery, sexism and racism in the armed forces.

He was elected to Parliament as Labour MP for Falkirk West in a by-election.

He increased his majority in the general elections of 2001 and 2005 when the constituency was renamed Falkirk after constituency changes, and held on by a comfortable margin in 2010.

Additional reporting by Press Association