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Lobbying firm gets apology from body that had it investigated

25 Apr 2024 4 minute read

Martin Shipton

A controversial lobbying firm has received an apology from the UK’s voluntary regulatory body for lobbyists over a decision to investigate a complaint about social media posts made by two of its directors.

Information rights activist Jamie Roberts made a complaint to the Public Affairs Board (PAB) about posts to X made by Cathy Owens and Nerys Evans – both directors of Cardiff-based Deryn Consulting – in the wake of the jailing last year of former Welsh lobbyist Daran Hill for child pornography offences.

Ms Owens and Ms Evans both suggested without evidence that people close to Mr Hill had covered up his crimes. Mr Roberts complained that by making such unsubstantiated insinuations, the pair may have acted in breach of the PAB’s professional code, which places a high emphasis on honesty, transparency, and professional ethics.

The PAB’s chair Liam Herbert engaged on the body’s behalf an independent adjudicator to investigate Mr Roberts’ complaint. Mr Roberts was told later that the adjudicator had produced a report concluding that there was no case to answer.


Ms Owens – who sits on the executive committee of the PAB – and Ms Evans then complained about Mr Herbert, saying he should not have called in an independent adjudicator to investigate what they considered to be a vexatious complaint. He was suspended, and now a new PAB chair and committee are due to be elected. Some members of the PAB are unhappy with the way Mr Herbert has been treated.

At a recent meeting of the PAB, Ms Owens alleged that the motivation in making a complaint against her, Ms Evans and Deryn had been “misogyny”. She went on to tell her fellow board members that she wanted to make sure nothing like it could happen to any woman in the public affairs industry again, that Deryn and its directors should receive a public apology, and that the company should be compensated for the time it had been obliged to spend on resisting the complaint.

The PAB comes under the umbrella of the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA), the world’s largest professional PR body.

A PRCA spokesman said: “Deryn Consulting Ltd was the subject of a complaint to PRCA by a third party. A thorough assessment by an independent adjudicator determined that this complaint fell outside the scope of PRCA’s Public Affairs Code and therefore did not warrant further action. Deryn raised concerns to the PRCA Management Board regarding the investigation process. A second independent investigator validated Deryn’s concerns, concluding that the complaint should have been dismissed without proceeding to independent adjudication. We unreservedly apologise to Deryn for the distress they have suffered in this matter.”


Responding to the decision to extend an apology to Deryn and its directors, Mr Roberts said: “The PRCA’s decision to suspend Liam Herbert, the PAB chair, was disgraceful and indicative of a broader systemic failure within the organisation. This action, along with the PRCA chief executive’s assertion that my complaint was not made in good faith, not only trivialises the serious issues I raised but also unjustly tarnishes my integrity and that of Mr Herbert.

“It is especially concerning that the PRCA has decided to issue apologies and consider compensation to Deryn, Cathy Owens and Nerys Evans. Such measures are not only offensive but highlight a troubling bias, rewarding those who, in my view, should instead be scrutinised.

“My complaint was unjustly described as vexatious, malicious, misogynistic, and siding with a convicted sex offender. This is a total disgrace. This mischaracterisation grossly misrepresents the facts and intent behind the complaint. Just because they are women does not mean that it is misogynistic or sexist.

“The treatment of Mr Herbert and the decisions surrounding this case show that the PRCA has allowed itself to be unduly influenced by certain parties, failing to maintain its duty of neutrality and objectivity. The organisation appears not only weak but wholly unfit for purpose, unable to hold its members and the lobbying industry to account.

“Given these profound shortcomings, it is clear that the PRCA should be disbanded. We need a statutory regulator for lobbyists in Wales – a body capable of genuinely upholding standards rather than a trade body masquerading as a regulator while actually covering up for its members.”

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