The leader of Plaid Cymru at Westminster has apologised to a woman assaulted by her MP husband after he was allowed to sit in Parliament as one of the party's MPs again.
Liz Saville Roberts says she regrets not making “further attempts” to ensure that the view of Jonathan Edwards’ wife was taken into account in the decision to allow him to rejoin the party’s group of MPs.
Ms Saville Roberts has apologised to Emma Edwards and says that “fundamental changes must now be made to our disciplinary process.”
Jonathan Edwards has already said that he will not be rejoining the group of MPs, despite a decision by the party’s ruling National Executive committee to allow him to do so.
He’d been suspended from the group and the party for two years after he accepted a police caution for assault in May 2020.
On Friday, Emma Edwards said she was "appalled" by the decision and said it appeared "that survivors of domestic abuse don't matter.”
The following day, Mr Edwards said that: "It is with deep regret that I announce that I will not be re-joining the Plaid Cymru Westminster group to allow a period of calm reflection.”
The party's leader Adam Price then went on to say: “It is my firm belief that Jonathan Edwards cannot continue to represent Plaid Cymru in Westminster and should resign immediately.
“I also call on Jonathan Edwards to leave the party. His actions do not represent our values and his position as an MP sends the wrong message out to domestic abuse survivors in Wales and beyond.
“I would like to thank Emma Edwards for speaking out yesterday and for her to know that her voice has been heard.
“I would also like to offer my apology to her and all domestic abuse survivors for the pain this has caused.
“Our disciplinary processes must change to give victims of gender-based violence a central role in any enquiries. This work will begin immediately and will be given the urgency and gravity it clearly deserves.”
His apology and the call for a radical overhaul of Plaid Cymru’s disciplinary process has now been echoed by Liz Saville Roberts who leads the party’s MPs in Westminster.
In a statement she said: “Many people have been deeply dismayed by disagreements relating to Jonathan Edwards’ membership of Plaid Cymru in recent weeks. As the party’s Westminster leader and a longstanding campaigner for the rights of domestic abuse victims, I regret that we have not adequately dealt with this matter.
“Jonathan Edwards was immediately removed from the Plaid Cymru Westminster group following his arrest and caution for common assault against his wife in their home in May 2020. He was subsequently suspended from Plaid Cymru in July 2020 for a period of no less than 12 months.
“My guiding principles as Westminster group leader in this matter were twofold. Firstly, that the voices of domestic abuse victims must be heard. Secondly, as a party that believes in the rehabilitation of offenders, we must be willing to apply those same values to party disciplinary processes where there is sufficient evidence of remorse and contrition over a period of time.
“It is estimated that over 50,000 women experience more than 200,000 incidents of domestic abuse in Wales each year. I firmly believe that, given the prevalence of the scourge of domestic abuse in our society, we must be willing to act on the principle that offenders can undertake successful rehabilitation. It is, however, only possible where there is no established pattern of repeat offending and where perpetrators are willing to show genuine remorse and can provide evidence of credible steps to change their attitudes and behaviour.
“Mr Edwards was expected to satisfy an independent disciplinary panel that he had used the past two years to benefit from a period of deep reflection and self-evaluation. As Westminster leader, I put my trust in the judgement of that independent panel to decide whether he had met those conditions. Procedural advice later confirmed that the independent panel’s decision was final and that no additional formal decision could be taken by the Westminster group for the whip to be returned.
“As in all cases of domestic abuse, the voice of the victim matters above all else. It became clear to me that the party had not sought the opinion of the victim since the event in 2020.
“That is why I wrote to Emma Edwards in April 2022, saying that it was important that she should have the option to speak to someone in the party, and providing confidential personal contact details. Ms Edwards did not respond to this correspondence. I fully respect her decision not to do so. Just as the voices of domestic abuse survivors must be listened to, we must also always respect their right to privacy and agency in deciding how best to deal with their experiences.
“Mr Edwards satisfied the independent panel that he took full responsibility for his actions. As a party, we must now question the robustness of our disciplinary procedures, given that Ms Edwards disagrees with the validity of the remorse Mr Edwards had expressed to the panel.
“Ms Edwards’ statement shortly after last week’s announcement invalidates the panel's decision. If the victim does not accept and affirm the perpetrator’s contrition, all other standpoints become irrelevant. I therefore welcome Mr Edwards’ decision to step back from Plaid Cymru’s Westminster group, a decision which I urged him to take.
“I regret that we did not make further attempts to ensure that Ms Edwards’ voice was heard during the process. I would therefore like to join our leader Adam Price in apologising to Ms Edwards. I also agree that fundamental changes must now be made to our disciplinary processes.
“I would also like to recognise Jonathan Edwards' decade-long contribution to the Plaid Cymru Westminster group and his work for the party. I hope that by stepping back from the group, Mr Edwards will now be able to prioritise the well-being of his children without further distress.”