Coroner to probe As­sem­bly ac­tions over ex-min­is­ter’s men­tal health

South Wales Echo - - NEWS -

A CORONER in­ves­ti­gat­ing the death of politi­cian Carl Sargeant said he will ex­am­ine how the Welsh As­sem­bly acted in re­la­tion to his men­tal wel­fare be­fore his ap­par­ent sui­cide.

Mr Sargeant, 49, was found hanged at his home last week by his wife Ber­nadette, four days af­ter be­ing re­moved from his role as cab­i­net sec­re­tary for com­mu­ni­ties and chil­dren, his in­quest heard yes­ter­day.

The fa­ther of two, from Con­nah’s Quay, was sus­pended from the Labour Party over al­le­ga­tions of “un­wanted at­ten­tion, in­ap­pro­pri­ate touch­ing or grop­ing”.

But he was not told the de­tails of what he was ac­cused of and was un­able to prop­erly de­fend him­self, his fam­ily said.

It is un­der­stood that de­tails were with­held to pro­tect the iden­tity of the com­plainants but Mr Sargeant’s fam­ily and solic­i­tors say be­ing kept in the dark caused him men­tal an­guish.

Yes­ter­day, John Git­tins, Se­nior Coroner for North Wales (East and Cen­tral), at a brief hear­ing to open and ad­journ the in­quest into Mr Sargeant’s death at the County Hall in Ruthin, said he will be seek­ing state­ments from wit­nesses at the Na­tional As­sem­bly, in­clud­ing First Min­is­ter Car­wyn Jones, and they may be re­quired to at­tend the court at a fu­ture hear­ing.

Mr Git­tins also said that, as coroner, it was his duty to con­sider any steps that may be taken to pre­vent fu­ture deaths.

He added: “With this as­pect of my role in mind, I shall be ex­am­in­ing care­fully the steps taken by the As­sem­bly to have re­gard to Mr Sargeant’s men­tal wel­fare prior to his death.”

Ear­lier, the court heard that last Tues­day morn­ing Mrs Sargeant had gone down­stairs and found a note on the door of her util­ity room in her hus­band’s hand­writ­ing ad­vis­ing her not to en­ter but to call the po­lice.

She then went in and found her hus­band on the floor of the “lean to” ad­join­ing the util­ity room, “af­ter an ap­par­ent act of self-harm”.

Ef­forts to re­sus­ci­tate him con­tin­ued by Mrs Sargeant and fam­ily mem­bers along with paramedics un­til life was pro­nounced ex­tinct.

Dr An­drew Dal­ton car­ried out a post-mortem ex­am­i­na­tion and took sam­ples for tox­i­col­ogy tests, but pro­vided the coroner with a pro­vi­sional cause of death as hang­ing.

Mr Git­tins said his in­quest will not con­sider the truth of al­le­ga­tions made against Mr Sargeant, nor look at “Cardiff and the Welsh As­sem­bly or the Labour Party” and mak­ing ad­ju­di­ca­tions on “who is right or wrong and who can be trusted”.

Mr Jones has called for a se­nior QC to carry out an in­de­pen­dent in­quiry to ex­am­ine his han­dling of the case.

But Mr Sargeant’s fam­ily has crit­i­cised the de­ci­sion to ask the Per­ma­nent Sec­re­tary to be­gin prepara­tory work and said it will pre­vent the probe from be­ing truly in­de­pen­dent.

Mr Git­tins, be­fore ad­journ­ing the in­quest to a date yet to be fixed, said he will be re­quired to con­sider a con­clu­sion of sui­cide and that would mean he had to be cer­tain that Mr Sargeant’s in­ten­tion was to end his life and he must con­sider his men­tal state at the time.

Due to the in­de­pen­dent in­quiry al­ready an­nounced, the coroner said he was not able to set a date for the in­quest to re­sume, and its own find­ings may have a bear­ing on the in­quest.

He con­cluded: “May I take this op­por­tu­nity to ex­press my sin­cere con­do­lences to the fam­ily, friends and col­leagues of Mr Sargeant and to as­sure them all that there will be a full and fair ex­am­i­na­tion of the mat­ters which are rel­e­vant to my in­ves­ti­ga­tion and that I shall not al­low the in­quest to be a trial by press, pol­i­tics or per­son­al­ity.”

Mr Jones had been un­der mount­ing pres­sure to launch an in­de­pen­dent in­quiry, with Mr Sargeant’s fam­ily adding to the crit­i­cism shortly be­fore the First Min­is­ter’s an­nounce­ment.

Mr Sargeant’s fam­ily said there had been “se­ri­ous fail­ings” in the way the sit­u­a­tion was han­dled.

Welsh Tory leader An­drew RT Davies and fig­ures from within Mr Jones’ own party had called for the First Min­is­ter to an­nounce an in­ves­ti­ga­tion. For­mer min­is­ter Leighton An­drews has claimed Mr Jones knew that Mr Sargeant was “frag­ile” be­fore he sacked him.

He has also said the at­mos­phere in the Gov­ern­ment had been “toxic” with “mi­nor bul­ly­ing, mind-games, power-games, favouritism, in­con­sis­tency of treat­ment to dif­fer­ent min­is­ters, de­lib­er­ate per­sonal un­der­min­ing” and “Carl was un­ques­tion­ably the tar­get of some of this be­hav­iour”.

For emo­tional sup­port, you can call Sa­mar­i­tans for free any time from any phone on 116 123, email jo@sa­mar­i­tans.org, or visit www. sa­mar­i­tans.org to find de­tails of your near­est branch. For emo­tional sup­port in Welsh, you can call the Welsh lan­guage line for free on 0808 164 0123.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.