A Welsh politician is facing losing 21 days salary after he was found to have been “physically and verbally aggressive” to Labour’s Mick Antoniw.
A probe heard how the Pontypridd politician was left “upset and shaken” after Neil McEvoy remonstrated with him in the Senedd in May 2019.
One witness said it “looked as though Neil was going to punch Mick”.
Mr McEvoy accused the committee that made the ruling of being “gutless red Tories”.
The standards committee of the Senedd found that Mr McEvoy committed a “severe breach” of the code of conduct and had showed “contempt” for colleagues.
It called for the Member of the Senedd for South Wales Central to be banned from the Senedd for 21 days, which if ratified would be the longest ban ever handed out in the parliament for poor behaviour.
The ruling follows an investigation by former standards commissioner Sir Roderick Evans, who completed the probe months before his resignation prompted by secret recordings made by Mr McEvoy.
Six members of Senedd staff gave interviews about the incident involving Mr Antoniw, according to a report.
“Descriptions of [Mr McEvoy’s] conduct reveal a level of aggression that would not be acceptable in licensed premises let alone in the National Assembly in front of members of staff and members of the public,” Sir Roderick wrote.
Mr McEvoy appealed against the committee’s ruling – made before Sir Roderick’s resignation – to a high court judge. Sir John Griffith Williams dismissed the appeal in April of this year.
Mr Antoniw complained to Sir Roderick that the Member of the Senedd (MS) for South Wales Central had approached him in an “aggressive manner and raised voice” outside the Senedd’s debating chamber, “insulting me and saying something about how dare I call him a bully”.
The Labour backbencher said it was “likely a follow on” from when Mr Antoniw had called Mr McEvoy a “convicted bully” in the chamber a week earlier.
Mr Antoniw told Mr McEvoy “several times” that he did not want to speak to him, but the former Plaid Cymru politician “continued ranting at me”, following him and “physically blocking my path”.
In his complaint to Sir Roderick the MS said: “I told him not to speak to me or I would report him to the Standards Commissioner. He said ‘go on then. I know all about you, you red Tory, you are just a bully, I know all about you. You’re a coward in your big group. I will get you’,” Mr Antoniw told Sir Roderick.
A witness in the area outside the chamber, known as the Cwrt, said: “Had I seen that behaviour outside the Assembly, in a pub for example, I would have expected violence from Neil McEvoy.”
The incident took place as staff were preparing for the day’s plenary debating session. Witnesses described how the incident continued within the Senedd chamber itself – in view of the public gallery.
From there, Mr McEvoy was seen “pacing in an animated fashion between Mr Antoniw’s seat and his own”.
The witness said Mr McEvoy “appeared to be struggling to retain his composure. I did not know what he would do next.
“It appeared to me that the incident could be the prelude to something worse”.
One individual present in the chamber itself said they were in “two minds about whether to ask security to enter the chamber, as it looked as if things would escalate.
“Mick remained calm, but I could see that he was upset and shaken by the whole thing.”
A staff member told Sir Roderick that he saw “Neil out of his seat and pointing in Mick’s face and he seemed not to care where he was or who was around him”.
Another member of staff told Sir Roderick: “It looked as though Neil was going to punch Mick. I have never seen anyone so angry.”
“Neil was so cross that he didn’t care he was in the chamber and the public gallery was open and also our chief executive was also in the room,” a witness added.
Mr McEvoy, in evidence to the committee, disputed the accounts of the complainant Mr Antoniw, and the account of some witnesses that state he got up “two or three times” in the Senedd chamber.
There was no CCTV footage of the incident inside the chamber, but there was outside.
Mr McEvoy, who is also a Cardiff councillor, told the committee the footage called into question some of the statements made by witnesses and the complaint.
The committee decided not to view the footage on data protection grounds and was “persuaded on the balance of evidence”. The commissioner, it said, found enough evidence to support the complaint without needing to rely on CCTV footage.
But the committee said that during the evidence session he accepted that “he had lost his temper and that his behaviour towards Mick Antoniw MS was aggressive”.
It has recommended Mr McEvoy is excluded from the Senedd for 21 days, a decision that will need to be ratified by the Welsh Parliament next Wednesday.
“To be physically and verbally aggressive to another individual is not acceptable in any walk of life, but particularly not by those who are meant to lead by example,” they said.
“Everybody is entitled to feel safe in their workplace and in this instance that did not happen.”
In a response to BBC Wales Mr McEvoy raised questions about the process and added: “It’s no surprise to me that the first Welsh born person of colour is being given the longest ban in Senedd history for saying a few choice words to a Labour politician.
“They are gutless Red Tories.”