An unemployed Scottish independence supporter who threw eggs at Labour MP Jim Murphy in Kirkcaldy High Street last Thursday has been sentenced to 80 hours’ community service.
Stuart MacKenzie, 45, who lives in the High Street, admitted assaulting the shadow minister as he spoke in the town centre as part of his soapbox 100 towns in 100 Days tour for Better Together.
Sheriff Kenneth McGowan said the accused, who appeared from custody at Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court, had been guilty of “childish antics”.
The court heard MacKenzie threw the eggs after he became “irritated” at Mr Murphy’s failure to answer questions.
When the East Renfrewshire MP failed to answer the question “what do you have against democracy” posed by MacKenzie, the 45-year-old decided to take action.
He walked to a nearby Tesco store and bought half a dozen eggs before returning to the town’s High Street.
Mackenzie then hurled his first three eggs at Mr Murphy missing each time.
He then repositioned himself and tried again missing from four yards’ range before approaching the MP and “physically striking him” with the eggs before making off.
Mackenzie’s lawyer David Cranston said he lives in a flat overlooking the scene and had gone to watch Murphy’s speech after “hearing the commotion”.
The lawyer said he had lashed out because of a “lack of interaction” with the MP but said he did not condone “organised, concerted disruption” of the politician’s campaign trail.See more on this story in Friday’s CourierThe court heard Mackenzie handed himself into police on Wednesday after massive media coverage of the incident.
The fiscal depute said: “Police were called anonymously because of concerns the event had become heated and the crowd was rowdy and disruptive.
“CCTV was turned on the event and it was monitored.Around 3.35pm the accused was within the crowd being addressed and he was seen to throw an egg towards witness Murphy.
“He does this a further two times, missing each time.The accused then positions himself behind witness Murphy and misses again.
“He then approaches witness Murphy and physically strikes him directly on his back.
“When he was charged the accused said ‘I’d like to apologise to Mr Murphy and for bringing the Yes campaign into disrepute unintentionally’.He said he was thoroughly ashamed.”
Mackenzie, 45, of High Street, Kirkcaldy, pleaded guilty on summary complaint to a charge of assault.
His defence lawyer said Mackenzie was a self-confessed supporter of Scottish independence.
He said: “He recognises that this was shameful behaviour.He lives overlooking the scene and went down to take part and ask Mr Murphy a question.
“He was irritated that he didn’t get a response and there was an altercation with a photographer who he thought was an official photographer and he got in a bit of a state.
“He’s not part of any concerted attempt to disrupt meetings by Better Together and if there are concerted efforts he wants no part of them.”
Sheriff Kenneth McGowan ordered Mackenzie to carry out 80 hours of unpaid work on a community payback order.
He said: “We are very fortunate that we live in a stable democracy where political discourse can be taken freely without risk of violence or disorder.
“From time to time passions may become inflamed especially when there is a major political event carrying on.
“These were really childish antics.My main concern is that this took place in front of a large number of people and it could have triggered disorder.
“You would have had no control over it and it could have got out of hand.”
Mr Murphy, the Labour MP for East Renfrewshire and former Scottish Secretary, suspended his tour of Scotland last week following the egg incident.
He has since resumed his high street campaigning swapping the traditional soapbox for empty crates set up in town and city centres across the country.
A spokesman for Mr Murphy said: “This sort of behaviour has no place in the referendum debate. Everybody in Scotland should be free to make their voice heard without fear of intimidation or abuse.”
MacKenzie refused to comment when leaving Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court.