Support our Nation today - please donate here
News

Plaid Cymru MS Rhys ab Owen ‘groped a woman in a taxi’, Senedd committee decides

07 Mar 2024 10 minute read
Rhys ab Owen MS in the Senedd

Martin Shipton

Plaid Cymru Senedd Member Rhys ab Owen groped a woman in a taxi when he was drunk after calling her a bitch, the Senedd’s Standards Committee has decided following a lengthy investigation by the Standards Commissioner.

A report from the committee recommends that he should be suspended from the Senedd for 42 days.

Mr ab Owen has been suspended from the Plaid Cymru group since November 2022 but has continued to sit as an Independent.

Commissioner

A summary of the report states: “The Commissioner[Douglas Bain} received a complaint in writing on 15 August 2022 in relation to the conduct of the Member on the evening of 30 June – 1 July 2021. On 11 October 2022, having decided that the complaint was admissible the Commissioner wrote to notify the Member of the complaint and asked whether the Member admitted or denied the following assertions made by the

Complainant.

“1. That at about 11:00pm on 30 June 2021 in Wetherspoon’s Mount Stuart, Cardiff Bay [he was] very drunk.

2. That about 11:30pm that night in the street near to Wetherspoon’s [he] twice called the Complainant ‘a bitch’.

3. That at that time and place he put his arm around the Complainant and pulled her body close to his well knowing that his actions were unwanted by her.

4. That shortly thereafter in the rear of a taxi in transit between that location and Cardiff city centre he placed his left hand on her right thigh close to her groin and squeezed it hard.

5. That on several occasions since that date he had apologised to the Complainant for his misconduct that night.”

In response to the Commissioner’s letter, the Member accepted points 1 and 5 but stated that points 2,3, and 4 were not admitted.

Investigation

The Commissioner conducted an investigation into the complaint which included interviewing the Member, the Complainant, and a number of other witnesses who either provided voluntary statements or who the Commissioner decided to interview under oath using the powers under section 11 of the Measure.

The Commissioner made the following 23 findings of fact, some of which the Committee has redacted or summarised to protect the identity of people and to avoid harm or distress:

Finding of Fact 1 – On the evening of 30 June 2021, prior to attending a dinner for Plaid Cymru Members of the Senedd at the Côte restaurant, the Member drank a pint of beer.

Finding of Fact 2 – Whilst there, he drank a quantity of wine.

Finding of Fact 3- He made lewd comments about [Senedd Members and a Member of Commission staff].

Finding of Fact 4 – After the dinner the Member and a number of other Members moved to Wetherspoons where they met up with a number of Plaid Cymru staff who had been attending a separate event.

Finding of Fact 5- All those present had consumed varying amounts of alcohol and were intoxicated to varying degrees. The Member was more intoxicated than the others present.

Finding of Fact 6- The Member made disparaging comments about [a Member of the Senedd] in a voice loud enough to be heard by those at adjoining tables.

[Comments redacted].

Finding of Fact 7- The Member inappropriately touched the waist of Witness A.

Finding of Fact 8- In the street near to Wetherspoons the Member twice called the Complainant a ‘bitch’.

Finding of Fact 9- He touched her inappropriately by putting his arm round her [the complainant’s] waist and pulling her body close to his.

Finding of Fact 10- Knowing that he was not welcome, the Member got into the rear seat of a taxi and sat next to the Complainant.

Finding of Fact 11- In the taxi he touched the Complainant inappropriately by squeezing her upper thigh hard with his hand.

Finding of Fact 12- When called out by Witness A, the Member called her a ‘bitch’.

Finding of Fact 13- At the Boom Battle Bar, the Member, Witness A, Witness B, Witness C and the Complainant sat together for approximately three hours and consumed more alcohol some of which was paid for by the Member.

Finding of Fact 14- Whilst there the Member made disparaging comments about [a Member of the Senedd].

Finding of Fact 15- He also made disparaging comments about [two Members of the Senedd].

Finding of Fact 16- He made a number of wholly inappropriate comments to Witness A [Comments redacted].

Finding of Fact 17- By the time he left the Boom Battle Bar the Member was in his own words ‘very, very drunk’.

Finding of Fact 18- At a virtual meeting with the Chief Whip on 2 July 2021 the Member was given full details of all the allegations against him.

Finding of Fact 19- Later that day the Member sent the Chief Whip an email in which he apologised for ‘his drunken behaviour of Wednesday night.’

Finding of Fact 20- The same day the Member emailed Witness A and apologised to her for ‘what happened on Wednesday’.[30 June 2021]

Finding of Fact 21- At about 5pm that day the Member telephoned the Complainant and, speaking in Welsh, told her repeatedly that he was sorry.

Finding of Fact 22- The Member has admitted that his conduct caused mental pain to the Complainant and others. His conduct continues to adversely affect the Complainant.

Finding of Fact 23- Other than being drunk and making crude comments to Witness A, the Member does not accept any improper conduct towards either the Complainant or Witness A and has shown no remorse for it.

Code of Conduct

The Commissioner considered that these findings of fact amounted to a breach of the following rules in the Code of Conduct:

▪ Rule 1 Members must uphold the Overarching Principles;

▪ Rule 3 Members must not act or behave in a manner that brings the Senedd or its Members generally, into disrepute;

▪ Rule 4 Members must not engage in unwanted behaviour, harassment, bullying, or discrimination;

▪ Rule 6 Members must not subject anyone to personal attack — in any communication (whether verbal, in writing or any form of electronic or other medium) — in a manner that would be considered excessive or abusive by a reasonable and impartial person, having regard to the context in which the remarks were made;

▪ The Commissioner also expressed an opinion that the Member’s conduct was contrary the Senedd’s Dignity and Respect Policy (in particular inappropriate behaviour that adversely affects the dignity of another).

21. Finding of Fact 1,2,4, 13, 17, 19, 20 and 21 were accepted by the Member.

22. Having considered the evidence presented, including the report from the

Commissioner and its annexes, written submissions from the Member and his counsel and from the Commissioner, additional information requested by the Committee and the oral representations from the Member and his counsel, the Committee:

▪ agreed with the findings of fact agreed by the Member, and findings 5,

6, 7, 8,9, 10, 11, 12 18, 22 and 23;

▪ made no determinations in relation to the Code of Conduct in respect of findings of fact 3, 14, 15, and 16, for procedural reasons set out below and taking into account the position of witness A who did not make a complaint and was summoned by the Commissioner to give evidence.

However, the Committee considered these findings as part of the surrounding circumstances in reaching its decisions on the other findings of fact.

Consequently, the Committee’s decision is in respect of eleven of the matters (findings 5,6, 7,8,9, 10, 11, 12, 18, 22 and 23) set out at paragraph 22 above and those findings admitted by the Member (1,2,4,13,17,19, 20 and 21).

The Committee noted the Commissioner’s opinion that the behaviour contravened the Dignity and Respect policy. However, the Committee now considers the policy to be covered under Rule 1 of the Code of Conduct to uphold the eight overarching principles of the Code and particularly the Respect principle 5 and rule 4 of the Code of Conduct.

Having considered the evidence and the submissions, the Committee has decided that the conduct of the Member, in terms of the finding agreed by the Committee had breached the Code of Conduct in respect of Rules one, three, four and six and recommends that the Member should be excluded for a period of 42 days not including recess.

The matter will be debated in the Senedd on March 13, with a motion proposed that states: “The Senedd:

1. Considers the Report of the Standards of Conduct Committee – Ninth Report to the Sixth Senedd laid before the Senedd on 6 March 2024 in accordance with Standing Order 22.9.

2. Endorses the recommendation in the report that a breach has been found.

3. Resolves that the Member shall be excluded from any Senedd proceedings under Standing Order 22.10(iii) for a period of 42 days, excluding days while the Senedd is in recess, commencing with the passing of this motion and ending no later than midnight on 15 May 2024.

4. Notes that the Member shall not be entitled to any salary from the Senedd in respect of the days to which point 3 applies, in accordance with Standing Order 22.10A.

A Senedd spokesperson said: “The Senedd’s Standards of Conduct Committee has taken time and a great deal of care to reach its conclusions on this complex and sensitive case.

“It is now up to Members of the Senedd to consider the Committee’s findings ahead of the debate on 13 March.”

Committed

Mr ab Owen posted a statement on X which said: “I would like to apologise to those who were affected by my behaviour on the evening in question, which was not up to the standard the public expects of a member of the Senedd. And for that, I apologise unreservedly.

“Whatever challenge I might have with the particulars of the complaint, or how it was subsequently investigated is a separate matter, on which I am considering my next steps. I remain fully committed to the Senedd and to my work there on behalf of my constituents.

“I would like to thank my wife and family for the love and support which kept me going throughout this difficult and drawn out process. I have made changes to my lifestyle that are helping me become a better person and representative.

“I will not be making any further comments at this time and I ask that the privacy of my family and everyone else involved is respected.”

Suspended

A Plaid Cymru spokesperson said the party was taking “swift and appropriate action in response” to the report and Rhys ab Owen has now been suspended from the party as well as the Senedd group.

“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.”


Support our Nation today

For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
29 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Jeff
Jeff
1 month ago

With that, it should be removal as a law maker. You cannot have that and remain. No room for abuse anywhere.

Barry Pandy
Barry Pandy
1 month ago
Reply to  Jeff

Does the Senedd have the ability to recall an MS in the same way Westminster MPs can be recalled? If not why not?

Paul ap Gareth
Paul ap Gareth
1 month ago
Reply to  Barry Pandy

No, unfortunately.
Why not, because recall is a new mechanism in Britain. Introduced by coalition government. Only applicable in Westminster it didn’t exist when devolved parliaments were being created. It only works in Westminster because of the first past the post system makes re running an election for one MP easy. If the same happened to an additional member politician in Wales or Scotland then it would not lead to a by-election as the PR election cannot be rerun, the next person on the list will be advanced (as happens is a MS dies see M. Ashgar and Plaid bloke).

Michael OBrien
Michael OBrien
1 month ago

Rhys only apologised for being drunk not for doing anything else the report is misleading.

Barry Pandy
Barry Pandy
1 month ago
Reply to  Michael OBrien

The report is not misleading. Yes he has denied doing anything else but that is not the opinion of the Senedd’s Standards Committee who have decided in the witnesses favour.

Alwyn
Alwyn
1 month ago

Clearly he was very drunk. Yet Witness A and the complainant, after the incident in the taxi, remained in his company for a further THREE HOURS??

Michael obrien
Michael obrien
1 month ago
Reply to  Alwyn

Yes he was very drunk jowever why did the commission not gather CCTV footage that could have assisted his defence. Due process and fair hearing was compromised too

Robert
Robert
1 month ago

Rhys has worked tirelessly trying to rectify housing issues up and down Cardiff. It’s hugely disappointing that he hasn’t had a fair hearing here

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago

Alcohol eh!

Health Minister now a sales rep for whisky in heavy drinking Kerala, India, where it is Summer all year for Welsh Labour, nice work if you’re a Drakeford protege…

hdavies15
hdavies15
1 month ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

They just love a chance to go “on tour”. Flogging whisky and recruiting medics just a side show.

HarrisR
HarrisR
1 month ago

Seems “we’re” all on first name terms here which is so incredibly “cosy”. And perhaps explains why this sort of “just boys at play – he was drunk so that explains it” is not just tolerated but flourishes.

In this “walk of life”.

Barry Pandy
Barry Pandy
1 month ago
Reply to  HarrisR

Yes indeed.

And I would add that, judging by some of the comments on here (some of which have quite rightly been taken down), there seem to be an awful lot of Andrew Tate fans.

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
1 month ago

Not good. Drunk or not, Sorry Rhys but you’re out. We need zero tolerance when it comes to sexual abuse. Our Senedd is better than that. We don’t want to ape Westminster where the likes of deviant Rob Roberts who propositioned his female & male staff members for sex wrist is slapped and later rewarded by the Tory party. Plaid should suspend him and eject him from the party.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago

Well done P*ss Head Plaid, all over the news, what the heck are you, yobs! or our (not for much longer) representatives in the Welsh Parliament…You bring shame on our house damn you…

Last edited 1 month ago by Mab Meirion
hdavies15
hdavies15
1 month ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

They set a precedent in their decision on J Edwards M.P so no wriggle room for this cad.

Will Jones
Will Jones
1 month ago

Looks as though the Plaid chief whip tried to cover this up. Needs to resign now.

Will Jones
Will Jones
1 month ago

Siân Gwenllïan, chief whip, needs to go now

Barry Pandy
Barry Pandy
1 month ago
Reply to  Will Jones

Did you not read the article?

“Mr ab Owen has been suspended from the Plaid Cymru group since November 2022 but has continued to sit as an Independent.”

Rob jones
Rob jones
1 month ago

Why is he still in the sennedd, oh yes his party supports labour

Barry Pandy
Barry Pandy
1 month ago
Reply to  Rob jones

Did you not read the article?

“Mr ab Owen has been suspended from the Plaid Cymru group since November 2022 but has continued to sit as an Independent.”

He’s still in the Senedd because (and please correct me if I’m wrong) the Senedd doesn’t have a mechanism for recalling Senedd members.

lufccymru
lufccymru
1 month ago
Reply to  Rob jones

He’s an independent.

hdavies15
hdavies15
1 month ago
Reply to  Rob jones

No need to worry. He’ll be so low down on the next closed list he ain’t likely to feature in the draw for seats after the election.

Our Supporters

All information provided to Nation.Cymru will be handled sensitively and within the boundaries of the Data Protection Act 2018.