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Call for Adam Price and Sian Gwenllian to lose party whip following ‘cover-up’ of groping incident

07 Mar 2024 6 minute read
Rhys ab Owen MS in the Senedd

Martin Shipton

A former Plaid Cymru MP has called for the withdrawal of the party whip from former Plaid leader Adam Price and chief whip Sian Gwenllian for their role in an alleged cover-up relating to a Plaid MS who groped a woman in a taxi after calling her a bitch.

The Senedd’s Standards Committee has recommended that South Wales Central MS Rhys ab Owen should be suspended from the Senedd for six weeks following an investigation by Standards Commissioner Douglas Bain into an incident that occurred in Cardiff in June 2021. Senedd Members will decide on March 13 whether to accept the recommendation that Mr ab Owen should be suspended.

Critical

The committee’s lengthy report into the matter, published on March 6, is critical of Plaid Cymru’s handling of the issue. It states: “The evidence gathered by the Commissioner shows that the complainant in this case and witness A [who was also touched inappropriately by Mr ab Owen] raised the matter that day (1 July 2021) within Plaid Cymru. The account of the internal party process in the Commissioner’s report shows that the processes then undertaken by the party in dealing with this matter, were in the committee’s view, inadequate and ineffective.

“The Commissioner outlines in his report: ‘I had no power to investigate the processes under which the concerns expressed by the complainant and by witness A were handled by Plaid Cymru. It was, however, apparent, as was confirmed by the then chief executive, that they were very far from satisfactory.

“Lest similarly ineffective processes exist in other political parties, I have written to the leaders in Wales of all other parties represented in the Senedd asking them to satisfy themselves that appropriate processes are in place and known to all staff employed by their party and by all support staff employed by Members of their party.’

“The complainant and witness A reported the incident to their line managers, and this was then escalated to the chief whip [Sian Gwenllian], who spoke with them and the Member. As a result of these conversations the Member agreed to apologise for his behaviour – the Member was provided at this point with the complainant’s telephone number and subsequently called her to apologise. The Committee does not consider the provision of a phone number in these circumstances to be an appropriate step to have taken in a complaint of this nature.

“The extensive paperwork that was produced by the complainant and Plaid Cymru as evidence to the Commissioner shows that there was insufficient support provided for those involved. There is no evidence that there was a proper process in place, and that if there was this was not communicated to anyone involved.

“Matters such as these need to have a clear and equitable process which is understood by all; it is not sufficient to try and deal with these matters extemporaneously. Alongside a lack of clear procedure, it also appears that there was no process for checking in with those involved to ensure that they were satisfied with the steps taken. The lack of a clear procedure and accompanying paperwork means that it was more difficult to establish what the Member was told when about the complaint, or indeed whether the Complainant was formally complaining to the party.”

Formal complaint

The matter was kept out of the public domain by Plaid Cymru and only taken forward a year later when a formal complaint about the incident was made to the Standards Commissioner.

Meanwhile in July 2020, Jonathan Edwards, the Plaid Cymru MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, had been suspended from the party for 12 months after accepting a police caution for assaulting his wife.

He was put through the party’s disciplinary process and suspended by a panel of senior party members. They took into account the fact that he was given a caution rather than charged with an offence, reflecting the fact that the assault was a one-off incident rather than part of an ongoing pattern of domestic violence and that in terms of gravity it was at the lower end of the scale.

The panel told Mr Edwards that he would be free to make an application to rejoin the party a year later on condition that he undertook a course about domestic violence, which he did. Although the disciplinary panel said Mr Edwards could rejoin the party, Plaid’s National Executive Committee overruled the panel and said he should not return.

He continues to sit as an Independent MP. The events involving Mr Edwards were all conducted in the public domain.

Cover-up

Reflecting on the differences in the way Plaid Cymru treated him and Rhys ab Owen respectively, Mr Edwards said: “It is clear that Adam Price, as leader of Plaid Cymru, and Siân Gwenllian, as chief whip, sat on the allegations against Rhys ab Owen for a year and effectively engaged in a cover-up.

“Plaid Cymru did nothing and the matter was only investigated properly after a complaint was made to the Standards Commissioner. Meanwhile they supported Plaid’s National Executive Committee in overturning the proportionate findings of a disciplinary panel in my case and forced me out of the party. This is pure hypocrisy.”

Mr Edwards went on to refer to Prosiect Pawb, a review of Plaid’s approach to allegations of bullying and sexual harassment undertaken on the party’s behalf by former MS Nerys Evans. She concluded that the party was riddled with a toxic culture of bullying, harassment and misogyny. Her findings led to the resignation as leader of Adam Price and his subsequent replacement by Rhun ap Iorwerth.

Mr Edwards said: “If Plaid’s Prosiect Pawb has any meaning, sanctions should be imposed on Adam Price and Siân Gwenllian in particular. This is a serious test of Rhun ap Iorwerth’s leadership. If he is serious about Prosiect Pawb, he must remove the whip. Will he cover up a cover-up or act with honour?”

On March 6, when the Standards Committee report into Mr ab Owen was published, Plaid Cymru issued a statement that said the party was taking “swift and appropriate action in response” to the report and Rhys ab Owen had now been suspended from the party as well as the Senedd group.

Suspended

The statement added: “In light of the conclusions of the report, Rhys ab Owen MS’s membership of the party has been suspended pending the outcome of an internal process that will commence immediately. The report follows a lengthy investigation and comes to a series of conclusions regarding the behaviour of the Member.

“It also references shortcomings in the party’s processes which pre-dates Prosiect Pawb – a wholesale review of Plaid Cymru’s practices and culture. Decisive action has been taken to implement the recommendations and strengthen the party’s governance.”

Asked to respond to Mr Edwards’ comments, a Plaid Cymru spokesperson said: “We have nothing to add to the statement [quoted above] we issued yesterday.”


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Dai Rob
Dai Rob
1 month ago

Wife Beater & a Groper.
No wonder Plaid have gone backwards in recent years! :/

Will Jones
Will Jones
1 month ago

Cesspit

Gaynor
Gaynor
1 month ago

Plaid is a clique like every other political party. They will treat people differently in order to save face and certain individual’s careers. Happy to use others as scapegoats. Their NEC is a joke looking at decisions they have taken this last year.

Steffan Gwent
1 month ago

Dim bychanu trais mewn gwleidyddiaeth.

harri ciri
harri ciri
1 month ago

Sian Gwenllian needs to go.She is divisive and doesn’t do much as an MS.

max wallis
max wallis
1 month ago

Covering up for Rhys ab Owen in July 2021, compared with Jonathan Edwards reference to the disciplinary committee shows a more basic flaw. The Plaid leadership (mis)uses the disciplinary process to shield its favourites and persecute critics (the infamous ‘no-fault suspensions). Think of the guy who said the Plaid candidate for Ynys Mon lied about Plaid’s anti-nuclear stance. And my late wife who criticised Leanne’s (Stonewall’s) “inclusive feminism”. Leanne’s office protege Mabli Jones.was allowed to make unevidenced allegations of transphobia, along with others attacking Helen Mary Jones when MS. Formally the disciplinary procedure is independent, in practice its controlled by… Read more »

Ianto
Ianto
29 days ago

The lights have been flashing for Plaid since Alun Ffred resigned as Chairman when he saw the writing on the wall and did’nt want to get involved with all the ‘dung’ that he knew went on before and after these events. Jonathan has been crucified by a gang of media political self interest group that should be gotten rid of in Plaid years ago and Sian Gwenllian and Adam Price and also suspectedly the new President Rhun ap Iorwerth. The whole Executive Committee and Disciplinary Committe needs to resign completely and get a new set of honest, consciencious committee. I… Read more »

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