The First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones, has agreed to launch an independent inquiry into his handling of the harassment allegations against Carl Sargeant, following criticism from the sacked minister’s grieving relatives.
A spokesman for the Welsh First Minister said on Friday Mr Jones believes a senior QC should examine his “actions and decisions” in relation to the former assembly member, who was found dead on Tuesday.
Mr 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 and suspended from the Labour party over allegations of “unwanted attention, inappropriate touching or groping”.
A spokesman for Mr Jones said: “Further to the First Minister’s comments yesterday about the need for independent scrutiny of his actions and decisions in relation to Carl Sargeant, he agrees that there should be an independent inquiry and it would be proper to ask a senior QC to lead that work.
“To ensure this happens separately from his office, the First Minister has asked the Permanent Secretary to begin preparatory work for this inquiry, and to make contact with the family to discuss the terms of reference and the identity of the QC.
“It is our understanding that such an inquiry should not take place before the outcome of a coroner’s inquest – but we will take further advice on this matter.”
Just minutes before the announcement, Mr Sargeant’s family had released a statement saying the first minister’s apparent reluctance to order an independent inquiry was deeply concerning.
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. The family said: “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.”
A statement by the family said they were concerned by the first minister’s suggestion on Thursday that the inquest would answer all the family’s questions.
They said Mr Jones himself was a barrister and would know that the coroner’s inquest could examine “four questions only”: the identity of the deceased, place of death, time of death, and how the death was caused.
In a statement, the family said: “The family believe they have the painful answers to each of those questions. What a coroner’s inquest cannot determine or appear to be determining is the civil or criminal liability, to apportion guilt or attribute blame, or to be seen to apportion guilt or to attribute blame.
“The first minister will also know as an experienced lawyer that to announce and commence a full independent review and inquiry does not hinder the coroner’s inquest and would run alongside the coroner’s inquest in any event.
“An independent inquiry will ask all the questions that need to be asked and have not been answered and will determine the reasons for the serious failings in following the correct procedures, practices and protocols, and the reasons for the complete abdication of responsibility and duty of care that was owed to Carl.”
The decision to hold an independent inquiry was welcomed by Flintshire council’s deputy Leader Bernie Attridge, a life long friend of Mr Sargeant.
He said that inquiry represented “a major ‘U-turn’” but called for Mr Jones to resign to allow the investigation to take place.
Mr Attridge said: “I believe his days are numbered. The quicker he does resign the better. Although that won’t bring my best friend Carl back, but it will help the mourning process as, at the moment, the mourning has turned into anger that Carwyn Jones won’t do the decent thing. All I saw by him not resigning is him looking after himself.”
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