Carl Sargeant not given natural justice, family says

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Media captionCarl Sargeant “wasn’t dealt with fairly”, says Labour AM Jenny Rathbone

The family of sacked Welsh Labour minister Carl Sargeant has said he was accused of “unwanted attention, inappropriate touching or groping” but was deprived of “natural justice”.

He was found dead on Tuesday after being suspended by the party and sacked from the cabinet by the first minister.

Labour AMs meet on Thursday to discuss recent events, with the first minister due to make a statement afterwards.

A spokesperson said Carwyn Jones was “deeply upset” by Mr Sargeant’s death.

The spokesperson said: “This is a difficult time for everybody, particularly Carl’s family, who are still coming to terms with this horrific news.

“Like everyone in the Welsh Labour family Carwyn is deeply upset by the death of his friend.

“Tomorrow Welsh Labour AMs will meet in the assembly to remember Carl and discuss the tragic events of the past week.

“Carwyn will make a further statement following the meeting.”

The family has released correspondence between Mr Sargeant’s solicitor and Labour to highlight their concern.

It shows Mr Sargeant pushed for more specific details on the claims, and that his mental well-being was being affected.

Relatives said he was distressed at being unable to defend himself.

The Labour Party said that in line with agreed procedure the nature of the allegations was outlined to Mr Sargeant.

The Alyn and Deeside AM had vowed to clear his name after being sacked as communities secretary by Mr Jones on Friday, but said he did not know the details of the allegations.

It is understood he took his own life.

A family spokesperson said on Wednesday it was publishing the correspondence “in light of the continued unwillingness” of the Labour Party “to clarify the nature of the allegations made against Carl”.

“Up to the point of his tragic death on Tuesday morning Carl was not informed of any of the detail of the allegations against him, despite requests and warnings regarding his mental welfare,” the spokesperson said.

“The correspondence also discloses the solicitor’s concern that media appearances by the first minister on Monday were prejudicing the inquiry.

“The family wish to disclose the fact that Carl maintained his innocence and he categorically denied any wrongdoing.

“The distress of not being able to defend himself properly against these unspecified allegations meant he was not afforded common courtesy, decency or natural justice.”

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Carwyn Jones said on Monday that “action is taken” when the Labour Party risks embarrassment

Mr Jones is facing questions from within his own party about how the situation was handled, after finding out about the allegations early last week.

Staff from his office, but not civil servants, spoke to the women involved and referred their complaints to Welsh Labour, which was investigating, and suspended Mr Sargeant.

Labour’s shadow equalities minister Dawn Butler initially called on Wednesday for an independent review of the process, saying it did not “sound as though everything that should have happened, happened”.

She later said she was satisfied that the appropriate process had been followed.

But Jenny Rathbone, Labour AM for Cardiff Central, told BBC Radio Wales she felt Mr Sargeant “wasn’t dealt with fairly”.

“If allegations are made against you, you must know what they are so that you can respond to them,” she said on the Good Morning Wales programme.

Mr Sargeant’s Westminster constituency colleague, Labour MP Mark Tami said: “It’s very difficult to defend yourself against something if you don’t know what you’re defending yourself against.”

UKIP Wales leader Neil Hamilton called on Mr Jones to resign, saying he “failed to fulfil his duty of care” to Mr Sargeant.

“It is clear that his summary dismissal was both heartless and in breach of the most fundamental principle of natural justice – giving the accused the right to defend himself,” he said.

Brecon and Radnorshire Conservative MP Chris Davies also called on the first minister to resign, saying the way he had handled the matter was “terrible”.

Analysis by Vaughan Roderick, BBC Welsh affairs editor

What did Carwyn Jones know about allegations of misconduct against Carl Sargeant – and when?

In a television interview two days ago, the day before the death of the ex-cabinet secretary, Carwyn Jones insisted that the first time he heard of the allegations was last week.

But multiple sources from more than one party have told me that Carwyn Jones had discussed allegations of misconduct with Carl Sargeant once before, and had received an explanation of the incident.

Are the sources right? The simple answer is I do not know.

But Carwyn Jones knows the truth and he should answer the question as soon as possible.

More from Vaughan

In his first on-camera comments since Tuesday, Mr Jones told ITV News he was “saddened by events”.

“It’s important that we reflect on it and that we remember the family today,” he said.

One Labour AM, who did not wish to be named, said there were “questions for the first minister over this” and another questioned what support Mr Sargeant had received since Friday.

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A book of condolence for Mr Sargeant was opened in the assembly on Wednesday

A third Labour AM said: “The suspicion is that there was a political decision to remove him from the cabinet. I don’t have any quarrel with that.

“But to mix the two things was wrong.”

The AM pointed to the fact that while UK government First Secretary of State Damian Green had been allowed to stay in post while under investigation, Mr Sargeant had been “thrown to the wolves”.

Sir Alistair Graham, the former chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, told BBC One’s Wales Live programme the Welsh Government was wrong to sack Mr Sargeant without telling him the details of the allegations against him.

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Media captionSir Alistair Graham said Mr Sargeant should have had a chance to defend himself

He said a senior lawyer should carry out a review of the process.

“I would have thought the sensible thing to do would be to ask a suitably qualified independent person, perhaps a senior lawyer, to carry out a review of how it has been handled both by the Welsh Government and the Labour party,” he said.

A Labour Party spokesperson said: “Following allegations brought to the attention of Welsh Labour by Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones, an investigation was launched by the UK party.

“The Labour Party Governance and Legal Unit spoke with Carl Sargeant and, in line with agreed procedure, outlined the nature of the allegations that had been received and how the complaints process works.”

A book of condolence for Mr Sargeant was opened in the assembly on Wednesday.

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