Carl Sargeant’s family claim ‘politics at play’ during his inquest

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Carl Sargeant (Family handout/PA)

The family of Welsh politician Carl Sargeant has hit out at attempts to “blacken” his name as an inquest into his death concluded.

Alyn and Deeside AM Mr Sargeant, 49, was found hanged at his home in Connah’s Quay on November 7 2017, four days after he was sacked from his job as Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Children following “bombshell” sex claims he groped and touched women.

On Thursday, senior coroner for North Wales (East and Central) John Gittins ruled his death was suicide.

Carl Sargeant inquest
Carl Sargeant’s son Jack and  wife Bernadette (Andy Kelvin/PA)

He issued a report for the prevention of future deaths to the office of the First Minister after raising concerns about the support available for ministers who lose their posts.

Mr Gittins said: “I’m concerned that not enough has been done by the Welsh Government to ensure that in the future, regardless of who is first minister, consideration is given to providing clear channels of support and help to persons who lose their positions from office and whose removals will attract significant media interest and intrusion into their private lives.”

The hearings at Ruthin County Hall have included former First Minister Carwyn Jones being accused by the family’s lawyer of lying over the pastoral care provided to Mr Sargeant before his death.

Several attempts were made by lawyers for the office of the First Minister to introduce evidence about the allegations against Mr Sargeant.

Carl Sargeant inquest
Former first minister Carwyn Jones before an earlier hearing at Ruthin County Hall (Andy Kelvin/PA)

Speaking outside court following the conclusion, Mr Sargeant’s son Jack said at times the inquest had felt like a criminal trial.

He said: “All too often politics have been at play with the sole aim of blackening a dead man’s name to protect another. Where has been the humanity in that?

“I do feel dad was certainly let down by the former first minister Carwyn Jones.

“Carwyn Jones said on the stand himself he was a friend, my only statement to that is I can’t see myself letting down a friend the way he let down his.”

Neil Hudgell, solicitor for the family, said: “We have seen a puppetmaster that has used the public purse to pursue his own ends without any regard for wider mental health considerations.”

As he began delivering his conclusions, Mr Gittins told the court: “The twists and turns of the journey, at times along the murkiest paths into the world of politics, has been a challenge.”

He referred to evidence given by Mr Jones about pastoral care, which was contradicted by Vale of Clwyd AM Ann Jones.

Mr Gittins said: “I accept he had erred in his original evidence to me and that he properly and appropriately corrected his error, albeit only once the true picture came to light by virtue of the information provided by Ann Jones.”

He said no official arrangements were put into place to provide support to Mr Sargeant after he lost his post, despite the probability Mr Jones knew he was vulnerable in relation to his mental health, having previously been diagnosed with depression.

He said: “Regardless of the reason for the loss of his position in Government, the effect of removal from office was that Mr Sargeant’s mental health deteriorated significantly.”

Carl Sargeant inquest
Solicitor Neil Hudgell (left) with Bernadette and Jack Sargeant (Eleanor Barlow/PA)

Giving evidence on Tuesday, Mrs Sargeant said her husband had been “shell-shocked” by the allegations and said she had believed him “100%” when he denied them.

A spokesman for current First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “I extend my deepest condolences to the Sargeant family. I know they continue to grieve for Carl.

“The coroner has made a regulation 28 report to the Welsh Government in relation to the prevention of future deaths and we will consider this carefully and respond in full.”

In a statement posted on Twitter, Mr Jones said: “The nature of these proceedings has meant that there appeared to be two sides in this matter and whilst it is right that arguments are tested, the process has driven an unnatural wedge between people who remain united at the very least in their ongoing shock, trauma and grief.

“Nobody wanted this and nobody could have foreseen it.

“Suicide is a shattering experience and I hope some healing can now begin.”

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