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Politician faces Senedd ban after report finds he touched women while drunk

A Welsh politician who inappropriately touched and swore at two women while he was drunk on a night out could be banned from the Senedd for six weeks.

Rhys ab Owen, who represents the South Wales Central region, had been at a meal with fellow Plaid Cymru Senedd members before continuing drinking at two pubs.

The Senedd’s standards committee said Mr ab Owen had shown “no remorse” for his actions in Cardiff on the evening of June 30 2021.

In a report, the committee said the politician had “inappropriately touched the waist” of a woman and later called her a “bitch”.

While in a taxi, he also “inappropriately touched” a second woman by squeezing her upper thigh hard with his hand, having earlier in the evening twice called her a “bitch”.

He also made “lewd comments” about fellow unnamed Senedd members, the report said.

The committee found Mr ab Owen was in his own words “very, very drunk”, having consumed wine and beer in a Cote restaurant, a Wetherspoons pub and a bar.

“All those present had consumed varying amounts of alcohol and were intoxicated to varying degrees,” the report found.

“The member was more intoxicated than the others present. The member made disparaging comments about a member of the Senedd in a voice loud enough to be heard by those at adjoining tables.

“The member inappropriately touched the waist of witness A.

“In the street near to Wetherspoons the member twice called the complainant a ‘bitch’.

“He touched her inappropriately by putting his arm round her waist and pulling her body close to his.

“Knowing that he was not welcome, the member got into the rear seat of a taxi and sat next to the complainant.

“In the taxi he touched the complainant inappropriately by squeezing her upper thigh hard with his hand.

“When called out by witness A, the member called her a ‘bitch’.”

The committee said Mr ab Owen and others later went to the Boom Battle Bar and drank more alcohol.

“By the time he left the Boom Battle Bar the member was in his own words ‘very, very drunk’,” the committee said.

Mr ab Owen later apologised to Plaid’s chief whip for “his drunken behaviour of Wednesday night” and also apologised to witness A and told the complainant he was “sorry”.

“The member has admitted that his conduct caused mental pain to the complainant and others. His conduct continues to adversely affect the complainant,” the committee said.

“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.

The proposed 42-day ban will be voted on in the Senedd next week, and if agreed Mr ab Owen will be stripped of his salary for the period. The ban will not include recess time.

Unlike MPs in Westminster, Mr ab Owen, who was suspended from the Plaid Senedd group in November 2022, will not face a recall petition, due to different rules.

In a statement, Mr ab Owen 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.”