(Title Image: BBC Wales)
AMs have unanimously agreed to appoint a temporary Standards Commissioner to re-investigate a complaint against the UKIP leader, Gareth Bennett, involving a video he produced in which he made derogatory comments about Joyce Watson AM (Lab, Mid & West Wales).
The current Standards Commissioner, Sir Roderick Evans QC, had considered a complaint about the video and dismissed it. However, a number of AMs demanded a review after he judged that the video – which featured Joyce Watson’s head superimposed on a barmaid wearing a low-cut top (and accompanying sexually suggestive comments) – was neither misogynistic or sexist.
In October, the Standards Commissioner agreed to step aside and allow a third party to re-investigate the complaint.
Former UKIP AM, Mark Reckless AM (Con, South Wales East), said AMs should accept the initial decision and appointing a temporary Commissioner wasn’t within the Senedd’s rules. These comments were echoed by UKIP’s Neil Hamilton who compared it to the “double jeopardy rule” – where you can’t be accused of the same offence twice.
However, the Chair of the Standards Committee, Jayne Bryant AM (Lab, Newport West), said appointing an acting Standards Commissioner was allowed:
“The Commissioner made it clear in his statement that he’d received further complaints, and has concluded that he should not act in this matter. And it’s permissible within the legislation for an acting commissioner to be appointed. There is nothing in the (Commissioner for Standards) Measure to prevent a complaint being looked at where one of a similar nature had been dismissed.”
– Jayne Bryant AM
Douglas Bain, the current Standards Commissioner for the Northern Irish Assembly, has been selected to stand in.