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Friday, August 6, 1999 Published at 14:08 GMT 15:08 UK

UK Politics

GBH allegation untrue, says Welsh Tory

Rod Richards: Denies the charges

The leader of the Conservatives in the Welsh Assembly, Rod Richards, has described as a "complete fabrication" an assault charge made against him.

Mr Richards, who is married with three children, has been charged with causing grievous bodily harm to Cassandra Melvin, 22, on 27 July, at Kew in west London.

The BBC's John Andrew: "Rod Richards has had a colourful career"
Scotland Yard confirmed that Mr Richards, 52, of Radyr, Cardiff, had been charged and bailed to appear before Richmond magistrates on 8 September.

He has stepped aside as Conservative group leader in the Welsh Assembly as a result of the accusation.

He told BBC Wales he had not known anything about the incident until Thursday when the police asked him to go to London.

'Completely untrue'

"The incident is a complete fabrication," he said. "The allegations are that I assaulted, attacked a person, ambushed them in fact, which is completely untrue.

"There is no truth whatever in it and I shall be fighting the allegation."

Rod Richards: "Judging by the number of phonecalls that I've had, an awful lot of people support me"
Mr Richards agreed he had met the alleged victim and other people: "Without going into details, I did certainly meet the person but I certainly did not assault anybody."

Asked why if he was not guilty, he had decided to step down, he said it was "in the best interests of the Conservative group in the Assembly and the party".

"Clearly a serious charge of this nature is going to take up an awful lot of my time. The best way foward is to focus on clearing my name," he added.

'Caretaker' role

"I have asked David Davies, Tory business manager in the Assembly, to take over until this matter is sorted out.

[ image: At 29, Tory Deputy David Davies is one of the Assembly's youngest members]
At 29, Tory Deputy David Davies is one of the Assembly's youngest members
"It is a temporary arrangement and I fully attend to take up the post of leader again once this matter is fully resolved."

BBC Correspondent Matthew Evans discusses the political implications
Mr Davies, Assembly Member for Monmouth, confirmed he had been asked to assume a "caretaker" role.

"I have been asked by Rod Richards to take over the job of leading the party on the Assembly until he has cleared his name.

"I hope it will only be a short time until he can resume his excellent leadership of the group."

Henri Lloyd Davies,Chairman of the Welsh Conservatives, said that Rod Richards enjoys his full support and will resume his position once his name is cleared.

Affair allegations

Mr Richards was the MP for Clwyd North West but lost his seat at the 1997 General Election.

Former Chairman of the Welsh Tories, Eric Howells: "He could come back"
In 1996, he resigned from his job as a junior Welsh Office minister amid allegations of an extra-marital affair.

A spokesman for Conservative Central Office in London said: "Rod denies any wrongdoing but has stood down in the interests of the party pending the outcome of the proceedings against him."

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