What is it with Labour MPs that they land themselves in court facing assault charges?

Eric Joyce arrives at Westminster Magistrates Court.

Remember Trevor Mallard’s altercation with Tau Henare?

No, not the occasional verbal tiff in Parliament.

Alf refers to an altercation of the physical sort that resulted in Mallard being charged with assault.

He was Minister for the Environment at the time, the way Alf recalls it, and finished up pleading guilty to the lesser charge of fighting in a public place.

At the time of the incident, Stuff reported Mallard had punched Henare in a lobby off Parliament’s debating chamber, striking his jaw after a heated exchange.

The clash started when the National MP goaded his rival in the chamber about his personal life.

It turns out Mallard has a soul-mate in Britain’s Parliament.

A Labour MP, sure enough, named Eric Joyce.

This Joyce feller has been spared jail after pleading guilty to four counts of assault following his brawl in a House of Commons bar last month.

He won’t be stepping down from Parliament (but nor did Mallard).

However the shamed MP has been fined £3,000 and ordered to pay £1,400 to victims at Westminster Magistrates’ Court.

He has also been given a twelve-month community order – which includes banning him from entering pubs and licensed premises for three months – and the court also gave him a curfew order from Friday to Sunday.

In a statement after sentencing, Joyce said he was ‘lucky’ to avoid prison, but said he did not intend to stand down as an MP before the next election.

Joyce is aged 51, which means he should be old enough to know better.

But nah. He was charged with assaulting Tory MP Stuart Andrew following a row in the Strangers Bar on February 22.

When he appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court yesterday he entered guilty pleas to three charges of common assault and one of assault by beating.

Unlike Mallard, who confined his efforts to remonstrating with Tau Henare, Joyce admitted assaulting four people during the attack.

The court heard Joyce first attacked MP Stuart Andrew, before lashing out at political aides Luke Mackenzie and Ben Maney and then Labour Whip Phillip Wilson.

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.

In the upshot, Joyce had to be restrained by several police officers.

Andrew, MP for Pudsey in West Yorkshire, was left bleeding from the nose while Wilson suffered a cut to his face after attempting to restrain Joyce.

Prosecutor Zoe Martin told the court that the ‘hammered’ MP Eric Joyce shouted at police: ‘you can’t touch me, I’m an MP’.

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.’

Ms Martin said violence flared after the £65,000-a-year MP for Falkirk started singing ‘very loudly’, and that Joyce looked like ‘he was very angry, drunk, angrier than anyone’.

One onlooker said his ‘eyes looked like nobody was home’ while another said his ‘eyes looked dead’

Alf suspects this means he was pissed and maybe was pissed as the proverbial fart.

Jeremy Dein QC, defence counsel, said Joyce expressed ‘shame and embarrassment’ and was unreservedly apologetic for what occurred.

The politician accepted the fact that he was drinking was not an excuse ‘for the dreadful scenario that unfolded’, the barrister added.

It’s not the first time booze has got the better of the bloke.

The Daily Mail recalls he turned to politics in 2000 after quitting the Army Education Corps amid clashes with top brass over his outspoken claims of snobbery, sexism and racism in the forces.

In 2010 he had a short spell on the front bench but resigned as shadow Northern Ireland minister after pleading guilty to failing to provide a breath test for which he lost his licence and was fined £400.

There’s nothing in the Daily Mail report to suggest he rides a bike.

As for Mallard, at the time of his appearance in court he pointed out that the conviction under the Summary Proceedings Act was not criminal.

“The charge is one of a lower level – a non-imprisonable offence – and while I’m clearly not proud of it, it’s in a different category to assault which I was certainly not guilty of.”

Mallard said he was not happy with how the incident had reflected on the Government.

Mallard initially had pleaded not guilty to assault in the Wellington District Court when he faced the charge brought by Wellington accountant Graham McCready.

In return for the guilty plea to the lesser charge, McCready withdrew an application to lay a second assault charge over an incident a year earlier in which Mallard was alleged to have clipped National MP Bob Clarkson around the ears with a manila folder.

Mr McCready told reporters he had achieved what he had set out to do – show that people were equal in front of the law and that ordinary people had a right to call politicians to account.

Dunno if the incident did anything much to forge a warm relationship between Mallard and Henare.

Subsequently in Parliament Mallard called Henare “a chocolate-covered banana”.

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