Carwyn Jones ‘should resign’ over ex-Minister’s death
Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones faced calls to quit after the family of former Welsh Assembly member Carl Sargeant said he had been denied “natural justice” because he was unaware of the details of allegations against him at the time of his death.
Mr Sargeant, who had been sacked as a Welsh Government minister and suspended from the Labour Party, was facing claims of “unwanted attention, inappropriate touching or groping” at the time of his death.
His family said Mr Sargeant’s distress at being unable to defend himself properly meant he was not afforded “common courtesy, decency or natural justice”.
A friend of Mr Sargeant said Mr Jones’ treatment of his former minister had been “unforgivable” and he should “do the right thing and resign”.
Mr Sargeant is understood to have taken his own life four days after being sacked from his role as communities and children secretary in the Welsh Government.
In a letter and email sent to the Labour Party on Monday, Mr Sargeant’s solicitor Huw Bowden made clear that the Alyn and Deeside AM “categorically denied” any wrongdoing and appealed to the party to provide details of the accusations against him.
He noted the party had confirmed that no “parallel investigations” - such as a police inquiry - were being conducted.
Writing the day before the 49-year-old’s death, Mr Bowden warned that the case was causing Mr Sargeant anxiety and distress and that any delays in concluding the party’s investigation would be “prejudicial ... to his physical and mental well-being”.
The First Minister is expected to make a statement on Thursday following a meeting of the Labour AMs.
But Bernie Attridge, the deputy leader of Flintshire council and a councillor in Mr Sargeant’s home town Connah’s Quay demanded the First Minister’s resignation.
“My mourning is turning into anger in the way my friend was treated by so-called people who say they were his friend,” he said.
In a message to Mr Jones he added: “I call on you to do the right thing and resign. The way you have treated Carl is unforgivable, you make me sick.”
Releasing the solicitor’s correspondence, a family spokesman said: “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 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.”
Mr Bowden complained that broadcast interviews by Mr Jones, in which the Welsh First Minister said he had been informed of “a number of incidents” relating to Mr Sargeant’s behaviour with women, were prejudicing the inquiry.
In his email, Mr Bowden said that it appeared a “large number of people” had spoken to the complainants without Mr Sargeant even being informed of who they were.
“There appears to be a very real possibility that the evidence of the witnesses is being manipulated and numerous conversations with the witnesses by various members of the First Minister’s Office at the very least must create uncertainties about the credibility of any evidence,” he wrote.
Mr Attridge is not the only Labour politician to have raised concerns about the handling of Mr Sargeant’s case.
Labour Assembly Member Jenny Rathbone said: “It is a basic fairness that you have got to know what the accusations are against you in order to be able to respond, but that doesn’t mean to say we don’t need to take allegations seriously, we obviously do.
“Other people say that even yesterday morning he did not know what the allegations were.
“It must have been devastating for him in the last few days.
“He was front page headlines for all the wrong reasons. It is all very tragic.”
Labour’s women and equalities spokeswoman Dawn Butler initially issued a call for an investigation into how Welsh Labour handled the case, telling BBC Radio 5 Live that “it doesn’t sound as though everything that should have happened, happened”.
But less than an hour later Ms Butler released a statement saying no investigation was needed.
“I have looked further into the process followed in this case. I am satisfied that the appropriate process was followed.”
Rhondda MP and former minister Chris Bryant said: “If this fortnight teaches anything it is there must be a fair proper process for those who feel they have been harassed or abused and fair due process for those facing allegations.”
A spokesman for the First Minister 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.”