(Title Image: BBC Wales)
The Senedd’s Standards Commissioner and former High Court judge, Sir Roderick Evans QC, resigned yesterday after revealing that himself and members of his staff have been secretly recorded by Neil McEvoy AM (Ind, South Wales Central).
His full statement reads:
“It has come to my attention that conversations with my staff about a variety of highly confidential and sensitive matters have been secretly, and possibly illegally, recorded over a period of what seems to be several months and in what seems to be a number of different locations by an Assembly Member.
“These have included highly confidential conversations with my staff including references to cases brought by members of the public.
“When considering and investigating complaints it is necessary for me and my staff to have open and frank discussions about the complaints, the appropriate approach to them, and their implications.
“That a member of our National Assembly could behave in this way is wholly unacceptable. It undermines the integrity of the complaints procedure and brings our democratic process into disrepute. I’m not prepared to continue in my role as Standards Commissioner.
“I thank my staff for their support during the last three years, but I therefore ask you to accept my resignation.”
– Sir Roderick Evans QC
McEvoy justified covert surveillance after a “damaging remark” was accidentally left on an official recording of a Standards Commissioner hearing into one of three complaints involving him. Embarrassing remarks which brought the Standards Commissioner and his staff “into disrepute” involving complainants and other AMs were also covertly recorded. McEvoy argues his action was lawful and in the public interest.
In the past, a number of stories have leaked from the Standards Commissioner’s office before they should’ve been made public, including a draft report relating to Gareth Bennett AM misusing public funds to hire an office.
While the covert recording of private conversations isn’t strictly unlawful, it’s unclear whether quasi-judicial private and confidential deliberations of the Standards Commissioner and his staff qualify as privileged conversations. Interceptions of this kind may also require a warrant, some other form of official authorisation or the expressed permission of the people being recorded. The Standards Commissioner is also legally protected from defamation claims and this action is, in itself, likely to be considered a very serious breach of the Members Code of Conduct by Neil McEvoy.
In response, the Assembly Commission has started the appointment process for a new Standards Commissioner. They’ve also ordered a security sweep of the Assembly estate and requested South Wales Police lead an investigation into how the Standards Commissioner was recorded.