Labour ig­nored its own policy with Carl Sargeant sus­pen­sion

Western Mail - - NEWS - Martin Ship­ton Chief re­porter martin.ship­ton@waleson­line.co.uk

THE Labour Party ig­nored its own sex­ual harassment policy when it sus­pended Carl Sargeant’s mem­ber­ship days be­fore he ap­par­ently took his own life, we can re­veal.

Mr Sargeant was re­moved from the Cabi­net by First Min­is­ter Car­wyn Jones on Novem­ber 3 af­ter un­spec­i­fied al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual harassment had been made against him.

On the same day he was in­formed by Labour that his party mem­ber­ship was be­ing sus­pended pend­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Four days af­ter be­ing re­moved from the Cabi­net, Mr Sargeant is be­lieved to have taken his own life at his home in Con­nah’s Quay, Flintshire.

Mr Sargeant, who had been the AM for Alyn and Dee­side since 2003, had not been told the de­tails of any al­le­ga­tions made against him.

Ear­lier this week we re­vealed that at the time of Mr Sargeant’s death on Novem­ber 7 no writ­ten state­ments al­leg­ing sex­ual harassment had been pro­vided to the Labour Party.

The fact was dis­closed in a let­ter from Labour gen­eral sec­re­tary Iain McNi­col to the Sargeant fam­ily’s so­lic­i­tor.

The Labour Party has a de­tailed policy on how to han­dle al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual harassment.

The policy sets out the steps that should be taken be­fore a mem­ber is sus­pended in such cir­cum­stances:

“First, we will seek writ­ten state­ments from you the com­plainant and the re­spon­dent.

“At this point the re­spon­dent will be in­formed of the de­tails of the com­plaint made against them.

“As part of this process each party will be en­cour­aged to pro­vide any rel­e­vant ev­i­dence and names of wit­nesses that sup­port their state­ment.

“This process will form the pre­lim­i­nary in­ves­ti­ga­tion to es­tab­lish the mat­ters of fact from both sides.

“The state­ments from the com­plainant, re­spon­dent and any wit­nesses will then be pro­vided to the sex­ual harassment panel of the Na­tional Ex­ec­u­tive Com­mit­tee (NEC). This panel will be made up of three mem­bers of the NEC Dis­putes Panel.

“All state­ments will be anonymised be­fore be­ing put in front of the panel, so they will not know the names of the in­di­vid­u­als in­volved in the case.

“If the party deems it nec­es­sary, at the point the com­plaint is re­ferred to the panel of the NEC, an ad­min­is­tra­tive sus­pen­sion may be im­posed on the re­spon­dent un­til the in­ves­ti­ga­tion is com­plete.”

We wrote to the Labour Party, stat­ing: “It ap­pears the party has bro­ken its own policy in the treat­ment of Carl Sargeant.

“The policy sets out a se­quence of steps and states at stage four: ‘If the party deems it nec­es­sary, at the point the com­plaint is re­ferred to the panel of the NEC, an ad­min­is­tra­tive sus­pen­sion may be im­posed on the re­spon­dent un­til the in­ves­ti­ga­tion is com­plete’.

“Yet we now know that the party had not even re­ceived writ­ten state­ments at the time of Carl’s death, let alone on the day he was sus­pended.

“Why was he sus­pended ear­lier than the policy states he should have been? On whose author­ity was the sus­pen­sion im­posed?”

The party did not wish to com­ment for­mally, but drew our at­ten­tion to a sec­tion of the party’s rules which states that its NEC “shall take such dis­ci­plinary mea­sures as it deems nec­es­sary to en­sure that all party mem­bers and of­fi­cers con­form to the con­sti­tu­tion, rules and stand­ing or­ders of the party”.

Such mea­sures in­clude the abil­ity to sus­pend a mem­ber “from of­fice or rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the party”.

A na­tional of­fi­cer of the UK Labour Party can be de­puted by the NEC to make a de­ci­sion to sus­pend, and that is what hap­pened in Mr Sargeant’s case.

But Bernie At­tridge, deputy leader of Flintshire County Coun­cil and a life­long friend of Mr Sargeant’s, said: “I’m very shocked to hear that the Labour Party has not fol­lowed the pro­ce­dures laid down in its own sex­ual harassment policy.

“This highlights what a sham the whole han­dling of the is­sue has been.”

A spokesman for the Welsh Con­ser­va­tives said: “It now ap­pears that not only does the First Min­is­ter need to be held to ac­count for his han­dling of Carl Sargeant’s dis­missal, but equally so too does the Labour Party.

“If their rules are to be un­der­stood then Carl should never have been sus­pended, as we now know that no writ­ten ev­i­dence of a com­plaint against him was ever pro­duced. We ur­gently need an­swers as to why these rules were for­feited and how, if at all, they con­trib­uted to these in­cred­i­bly tragic cir­cum­stances.”

Three sep­a­rate in­quiries, as well as an in­quest, will take place into mat­ters re­lat­ing to Mr Sargeant’s death.

> Carl Sargeant, 49, is un­der­stood to have taken his own life four days af­ter be­ing re­moved from his role as Cabi­net Sec­re­tary for Com­mu­ni­ties and Chil­dren

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