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Former Shadow NI Secretary Eric Joyce spared jail after making indecent image of child


Former Labour MP Eric Joyce leaves Ipswich Crown Court after being given a suspended sentence (Joe Giddens/PA)

Former Labour MP Eric Joyce leaves Ipswich Crown Court after being given a suspended sentence (Joe Giddens/PA)


Former Labour MP Eric Joyce leaves Ipswich Crown Court after being given a suspended sentence (Joe Giddens/PA)

A former Shadow Minister of State for Northern Ireland has been spared jail after making an indecent image of a child.

Eric Joyce had his eight month prison term suspended for two years on Friday. The former Labour MP was also ordered to complete 150 hours of unpaid work.

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

Joyce, of Worlingworth, Suffolk, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing at Ipswich Crown Court to the 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.

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.

An NSPCC spokesman said: "By accessing this appalling material, Joyce was helping to fuel a foul industry that thrives on inflicting pain and suffering on children.

"This problem cannot be solved by law enforcement alone - it is imperative that tech companies commit extra resources to prevent this material being shared, and to ensure it is removed as soon it appears online."

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