Former British Politician and Army Major Avoids Jail for Child Sex Offense

Eric Joyce, a former member of parliament (MP) and ex-Army officer, has avoided jail after pleading guilty to making an indecent photograph of a child.

A movie file found on a device belonging to Joyce was a "category A image," the most severe category of indecency.

The sentence given at Ipswich Crown Court is eight months in prison suspended for two years, and an order to complete 150 hours of unpaid work.

He was charged with making the photo between August 7, 2013, and November 6, 2018.

He had already been ordered to sign the Sex Offenders Register.

When sentencing him, Mr. Justice Edis said the film showed "the penetrative sexual abuse of very young children" and warned about the consequences of watching them.

"That these acts of abuse happened is because there are people like you who want to watch these films," he said.

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

On the sentence being a suspended one rather than a custodial one, Mr. Justice Edis noted the actions Joyce had taken.

"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 behavior, and that's happened over a significant period due to the delay in these proceedings," he said.

Joyce was also sentenced to a sexual harm prevention order that lasts until further order of the court, alongside an 18-day rehabilitation activity requirement and paying the prosecution costs of £1,800.

The politician served as a Labour MP between 2000 and 2012 for Falkirk in Scotland. He was a former shadow minister.

When the case was heard in July, Judge Emma Peters had already warned Joyce that his offense crossed the custody threshold and the court would be taking the decision seriously as such incidents "fuel the abuse of children."

She said that the question was whether the sentence would be "immediate or suspended."

Joyce had claimed he viewed the video "via... a spam email," as heard in court.

Judge Peters said: 'At the time he was drinking heavily and he has now undergone work with the [child sexual abuse prevention charity] Lucy Faithfull Foundation and a psychotherapist."

Charities were keen to stress that some of the responsibility lay on internet and social media companies.

"By accessing this appalling material, Joyce was helping to fuel a foul industry that thrives on inflicting pain and suffering on children," a children's charity NSPCC spokesperson told Newsweek.

"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."

Joyce served for 21 years in the British Army and became a major during this time.

Eric Joyce leaves court in 2012
Eric Joyce pleaded guilty to the charge of owning an image of child sexual abuse Getty

He had promised to "make a full statement" when "all legal processes are at a close" but has offered no comment up until this point.

The former MP, of Worlingworth, Suffolk, was granted bail before this sentencing.

This is not the first time that Joyce has been convicted of a crime.

Joyce resigned from the Labour Party after admitting four counts of assault that took place in a parliamentary bar and was arrested for another alleged brawl in a House of Commons bar, but no further action was taken.

He was detained by police officers after an alleged fracas during a karaoke night within the Houses of Parliament at the Commons Sports and Social Club.

In the aftermath of the later incident, Joyce was barred by the House of Commons from purchasing any form of alcohol anywhere in the Palace of Westminster.

He became an MP in a by-election is 2000 and briefly served as a shadow minister for Northern Ireland between June and November 2010. He resigned after pleading guilty to drink driving, apologizing for his behavior after being fined £400.

Updated 10:26 EDT 08/07/20: The statement from the NSPCC was received after publication and added to provide reaction to the verdict