AM set to be suspended for 2 weeks after breath test conviction

(Title Image: via Vimeo)

Standards Committee
Self-Referral for investigation by Rhianon Passmore AM (Lab, Islwyn)
Published: 9th July 2018 (pdf)

The Referral

On Saturday 23rd September 2017, Rhianon Passmore failed to provide a breath test to police and was arrested.

On February 12th 2018, the AM was convicted of the offence by magistrates after pleading guilty and was fined £1,000 (+£720 in surcharges and costs) and banned from driving for 20 months. She referred herself to the Standards Commissioner on March 6th 2018 for an investigation.

Rhianon’s Defence

  • After meeting a friend in Cardiff – at which Rhianon says she drank “two to three glasses of wine” – she returned to her car (which was parked at the Assembly building on Friday night) to drive to a pre-arranged hotel stay in England.
  • Rhianon suffered an asthma attack when reaching her car and took a high-dose medicine (Prednisone).
  • She decided to drive to her mother’s house but her car broke down in St Mellons. She called the AA but the police also arrived and asked her to give a breath test. She was unable to do so satisfactorily and was subsequently arrested. She also failed to provide a breath test at the police station despite trying and believes her asthma attack and shock may have been the reason why.
  • A doctor was called to the police station and she was taken by ambulance to hospital where she stayed until the afternoon.
  • Rhianon accepts that her conviction was a breach of the Code of Conduct and apologised.

The Standards Commissioner’s View

  • There was a breach of 4(b) of the Member’s Code of Conduct, which states that: “Assembly Members should at all times conduct themselves in a manner which will tend to maintain and strengthen the public’s trust and confidence in the integrity of the Assembly and refrain from any action which could bring the Assembly, or its members generally, into disrepute.”
  • It doesn’t raise any other issues of principle.

The Committee’s Conclusion

  • The Committee noted that Rhianon had apologised several times and referred herself for investigation promptly; this is reportedly the first time an AM has referred themselves for an investigation.
  • Nevertheless, a criminal conviction falls well below the standards of behaviour expected of an AM.
  • The penalty should be 21 days suspension without pay, but the clear remorse shown by Rhianon and her self-referral warrants a reduction.
  • Subject to a Senedd vote, the Committee recommends Rhianon Passmore be suspended for 14 days without pay, which would start on 17th September 2018 (after summer recess).

The fact Rhianon referred herself and pleaded guilty even though – and I’m not a solicitor – her asthma might have been a defence (though I would’ve expected a blood or urine test to have been done anyway), undoes some of the damage this very serious offence might otherwise have caused her. It’s the right way to approach this.

Nonetheless, after years of public information campaigns and even the passing of a law to try and warn us plebs of the dangers or restrict our drinking, it’s disappointing that someone in Rhianon’s position thought it was acceptable to drink anything before driving. She’s obviously not the first, but I fear she won’t be the last.

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