Labour ignored its own policy with Carl Sargeant suspension
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