Wales politics

Neil McEvoy: Police called to hearing after AM found to have bullied care worker

Neil McEvoy
Image caption Neil McEvoy told BBC Wales he will appeal against the ruling

Police were called to Cardiff's City Hall after a council panel ruled politician Neil McEvoy had bullied a care home worker.

The decision was followed by angry scenes when supporters of the councillor rose to their feet and shouted at the panel's members.

Later it ruled Mr McEvoy, who is also an assembly member, should be suspended as a councillor for four months.

Mr McEvoy said he would appeal against the ruling.

It follows days of evidence at the Cardiff council standards and ethics sub-committee, chaired by Cardiff University academic James Downe, and an investigation by the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales Nick Bennett.

During proceedings the independent AM denied claims he had tried to "ambush" a therapy meeting involving a child in care. He said he was acting for a family who feared the child had been assaulted.

Following the ruling supporters called the public services ombudsman's representative a "disgrace" and accused the panel of "corruption" and being a "kangaroo jury".

Members of the public were removed from the room by security after a disturbance that lasted more than five minutes.

What was Neil McEvoy accused of?

The Fairwater councillor was found to have breached the council's code of conduct at two separate incidents.

The first took place on 29 April 2018, when Mr McEvoy called a private care home where a child was resident following allegations of abuse by the child.

He wanted to make a visit to the care home, but the care home worker told him that would not be appropriate because he was not named on the child's care plan.

The care home worker told Mr McEvoy that he would have to speak to the child's social worker on the Monday to arrange a visit. Mr McEvoy then said he would bring a colleague with him and would raise the issue in the assembly.

When the care home worker continued to refuse him entry into the care home, he told her she had an hour to get back to him.

The committee heard the care home worker was left feeling anxious and undermined by the phone call. The panel found Mr McEvoy had been bullying, intimidating and disrespectful towards her.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The hearing was held at Cardiff City Hall

The second incident took place on 11 May 2018 and related to a therapy meeting with the child at the private care provider's offices.

Mr McEvoy attended the venue with the intent of going to the meeting.

He was accused of bullying and intimidating another care worker when he was informed that he could not be present.

The panel heard evidence that Mr McEvoy had made disparaging comments when describing the care worker.

He was cleared of bullying and intimidating behaviour but was found to have brought the council into disrepute.

What was Neil McEvoy's defence?

Mr McEvoy claimed throughout the hearings that he was highlighting the case of a child in care who was alleging abuse, and that he had the right to intervene in this case because of his role as "corporate parent".

Professor Downe said that if the councillor had concerns about child abuse he should report them through the "correct channels".

Image caption Nick Bennett said the case was not about alleged abuse

Mr Bennett welcomed the standards committee findings.

"The case before the committee was not about alleged child abuse. It was solely about the councillor's conduct," he said.

"Indeed, the police investigated an allegation of assault and found that there were no grounds for taking action."

'No legal authority to visit the child'

A statement on behalf of Mr Bennett's office stated Mr McEvoy had no legal authority to visit the child, because "the court granted the care order in respect of the child in favour of the council as a corporate entity, giving the council as a whole responsibility for the child".

"The court did not grant any parental responsibility rights for the child to the councillor personally."

The South Wales Central AM is a former Plaid Cymru member who was thrown out of the party in 2018 following an investigation into his conduct.

He had been suspended from Cardiff council in 2017 for a month after a tribunal found a comment he made amounted to bullying behaviour.

Mr McEvoy said he would be appealing the decision, "not because I think I can win but to highlight child abuse".

He added: "In future the record will show I did my best".

Mr McEvoy's suspension would begin once the appeal process is complete.

A South Wales Police spokesman said: "Police were called to City Hall in Cardiff shortly before 1720 on Tuesday 14 January following a report of a disturbance. No police action was required."

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