Welsh first min­is­ter agrees to in­quiry in Sargeant case

The Guardian Weekly - - UK News - Josh Hal­l­i­day

The first min­is­ter of Wales, Car­wyn Jones, has agreed to launch an in­de­pen­dent in­quiry into his han­dling of ha­rass­ment al­le­ga­tions against Carl Sargeant, fol­low­ing crit­i­cism from the sacked min­is­ter’s griev­ing rel­a­tives.

A spokesman for Jones said last Fri­day that a se­nior QC would ex­am­ine his “ac­tions and de­ci­sions” in re­la­tion to the for­mer assem­bly mem­ber, who was found dead ear­lier last week.

The news came 24 hours af­ter Jones de­fended his han­dling of the case in an emo­tional press con­fer­ence in which he said he had done ev­ery­thing “by the book”. Min­utes be­fore the an­nounce­ment, Sargeant’s fam­ily had re­leased a state­ment say­ing the first min­is­ter’s ap­par­ent re­luc­tance to or­der an in­de­pen­dent in­quiry was deeply con­cern­ing.

Sargeant, 49, was found dead at his home in Con­nah’s Quay, Flintshire, last Tues­day, hav­ing ap­par­ently killed him­self four days af­ter be­ing sacked as the cab­i­net sec­re­tary for com­mu­ni­ties and chil­dren. It is un­der­stood he was fac­ing ha­rass­ment al­le­ga­tions from three women, which he had de­nied.

A spokesman for Jones said the first min­is­ter had asked the Welsh govern­ment’s per­ma­nent sec­re­tary, Shan Mor­gan, to be­gin “prepara­tory work” for the in­quiry and con­tact Sargeant’s fam­ily to dis­cuss its terms of ref­er­ence and the iden­tity of the QC who will lead it.

The fam­ily, how­ever, cast doubt on whether the in­quiry would be truly in­de­pen­dent of the Welsh govern­ment. They said the per­ma­nent sec­re­tary was not in­de­pen­dent be­cause the role re­ports di­rectly to the first min­is­ter. “We be­lieve that a truly in­de­pen­dent body must also be re­spon­si­ble for agree­ing the terms of ref­er­ence and ap­point­ing the chair and sec­re­tar­iat to the in­quiry.”

In Con­nah’s Quay there has been re­sent­ment at the first min­is­ter’s sack­ing of Sargeant, Jones’s sub­se­quent me­dia ap­pear­ances and the re­fusal to give Sargeant de­tails about the al­le­ga­tions de­spite re­quests from his so­lic­i­tors.

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