Eric Joyce MP arrested for assault (and the Guardian get the law...

Eric Joyce MP arrested for assault (and the Guardian get the law wrong)


On 28 October 2014, the Guardian ran a story about Eric Joyce MP seemingly getting himself into another spot of bother.

You may well remember Mr Joyce’s name cropping up in 2012 for head butting someone in a House of Commons bar.

So what happened this time?

Well it’s a little unclear, however piecing things together from various news reports, it appears that Mr Joyce detained two boys in a shop after some damage had been caused (presumably by the boys). Mr Joyce asked the shop keeper to call the police, who upon arrival “found a man and two teenage boys involved in an altercation”.

One of the boys was arrested for possession of cannabis. It then appears that an allegation of assault was made against Mr Joyce. He was arrested on suspicion f committing assault occasioning actual bodily harm and taken to the police station where he was subsequently bailed until early December.

The offence

Well, the Guardian said he was arrested for “aggravated bodily harm” – unfortunately that is not an offence known to the law. The correct description is of course assault occasioning actual bodily harm (ABH) contrary to s.47 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861.

The maximum sentence is 5 years’ imprisonment.

Mr Joyce posted a statement on his website:

On the evening of Friday, 17th October I a detained a youth in a shop in London. Damage had been done to the store. I asked the shopkeeper to call the police, and when officers arrived they arrested the youth and informed me that drugs had been recovered from the scene.

The officers also informed me that the youth had immediately made a complaint that I had assaulted him by detaining him. I was questioned by the police and told that because of my identity the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the Metropolitan Police Press Office would be informed of the incident.

I understand the Metropolitan Police has now made the matter public. I will make no further comment for now, other than to say a) that no alcohol was involved and b) I am not in the habit of summoning the police if I feel that I am in the wrong.

Lyndon is the General Editor of Current Sentencing Practice and the Criminal Appeal Reports (Sentencing)


  1. Without knowing the details this looks as if another case of “arrest first and ask questions later”

    There was a time when the papers reported “people helping police with their enquiries”. Now we only hear of people being arrested on suspicion……….”

    This is in itself a punishment being inflicted by the police because there are a lot of occasions on which you must declare any arrest (eg applying for US visa, applying for various jobs) whether or not it led to any prosecution. For instance applying for a US visa you must not only declare any arrests but also supply the US embassy with a statement from the police.

    There is usually no reason for the police to arrest a suspect until they are ready to charge them. In fact I believe that many of these arrests are illegal because they don’t meet the necessity criteria required before an arrest is made.

    When I was arrested in 2011 I was told that the reason for my arrest was so that they could search my house without the need for a search warrant. This wasn’t the reason that later appeared in the paperwork!

    It is time for the police to start following the correct procedures.

    I also cannot see any reason for the police to inform the media of an arrest until they have sufficient evidence for a charge.