Welsh Labour politician Carl Sargeant commits suicide days after being sacked over sexual harassment allegations

Welsh Assembly member Carl Sargeant hanged himself in his utility room at home while his wife was upstairs and left a note on the door telling her not to enter, an inquest heard today.

The politician killed himself four days after he was sacked by Carwyn Jones over disputed allegations of groping and touching women.

49-year-old Carl Sargeant hanged himself in a lean-to off the utility room of his ex-council house home in Connah’s Quay, Deeside after his wife Bernie found a handwritten note on the door.

It urged her not to come in and just call the police but she ignored the request, entered and found him fatally injured on the floor.

Mr John Gittins, senior coroner for North Wales, opened and then adjourned the inquest in Ruthin, Denbighshire today and described his death as an apparent act of self harm.

The ten minute hearing, which was not attended by Mr Sargeant’s wife or their two adult children Jack and Lucy, was told that the family and paramedics had desperately tried to revive Mr Sargeant for between 20 and 30 minutes.

A provisional cause of death was given as hanging.

Mr Gittins said his inquest will not consider the truth of allegations made against Mr Sargeant or making adjudications on who is right or wrong.

The senior coroner said he would hold a full and fair investigation into the death and would examine what steps the Welsh Assembly took to look after Mr Sargeant’s mental welfare after the allegations had been made against him.

He said he would be seeking statements from First Minister Mr Jones and possibly others at the Welsh Assembly in the coming weeks.

But he said the inquest would not consider the veracity of the allegations made against Mr Sargeant.

He said: “Nor will I be looking at Cardiff and the Welsh assembly or Labour Party and making adjudications as to who was right and wrong and who can be trusted.

“It may well be that the events of the days preceding his death may be relevant to my inquiry, it is simply too early to say at this stage.

“I am nonetheless grateful to note from the family’s solicitors and also from the First Minister that they are all willing to assist me in my investigation.

“I shall be seeking statements from them and possibly from others at the Welsh Assembly in the coming weeks.”

He added: “My responsibilities as a coroner require me to give consideration to the prevention of future deaths.

“With this aspect of my role in mind I shall be examining carefully the steps taken by the Assembly to have regard to Mr Sargeant’s mental welfare prior to his death.”

The coroner said that a post mortem was carried out by Dr Andrew Dalton at Glan Clwyd hospital on November 10 who would conduct toxicology tests but gave a provisional cause of death as hanging.

Mr Gittins said he was required by law to open an inquest into Mr Sargeant’s death and to reach a conclusion about when, where and how he had died.

He said: “Let me make it absolutely clear therefore that my inquest will not consider the veracity or the allegations made against Mr Sargeant nor will I be looking to Cardiff and the Welsh Assembly or the Labour party and making adjudications as to who is right or wrong and who can be trusted.

“But as part of my investigation I must gather evidence to assist me in reaching a conclusion as I will be required to give consideration to reaching a conclusion of suicide. This will require me to be certain that it was Mr Sargeant’s intention to end his life at this time and I must therefore have regard to his mental state and his ability to form such an intention.

“As a consequence, it may well be that the events of the days preceeding his death may be relevant to my inquiry. It is too soon to say at this stage.’
The coroner said he was grateful to Mr Sargeant’s family and to the First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones for saying they were willing to help with his investigation. He said he would be seeking statements from them and possibly other members of the Welsh Assembly in the coming weeks.

Mr Gittins said that he also had to consider whether he would need to give a prevention of future deaths warning as part of his conclusions – known as a Rule 28 report.

He said: “If in the course of my investigations I have concerns that future deaths may occur and I am of the view that a person or organisation may be in a position to alleviate such risks, then it is my duty to draw my concerns to the relevant body by way of a Rule 28 report for the prevention of future deaths.

“With this aspect of my role in mind, I shall be examining carefully the steps taken by the Assembly to have regard to Mr Sargeant’s mental welfare prior to his death.”

Mr Gittins formally opened the inquest into Mr Sargeant’s death but could not fix a date for the full hearing before the independent inquiry already announced by Carwyn Jones.

He concluded: “May I take this opportunity to express my sincere condolences to the family, friend and colleagues of Mr Sargeant and to assure them all that there will be a full and fair examination of the matters which are relevant to my investigations and that I shall not allow the inquest to be a trial by press, politics or personality.”

The family were represented at the hearing by solicitor Daffyd Roberts who said that the family would not be making any comments.

It came as Welsh leader Carwyn Jones faced fresh pressure to step down today after a former aide said the atmosphere in his office was pure poison and his ex-boss was unwilling or unable to address its bullying culture.

Carwyn Jones has refused to quit over his sacking of minister Carl Sargeant, who took his own life at home in Connah’s Quay days after being accused of sexual misconduct.

On Sunday, the Welsh First Minister was accused of allowing a toxic environment to take hold in his office.

Steve Jones, who served as a special adviser to Mr Jones from 2009 to 2014, said: “The mind games being employed against ministers – such as Carl – were at times an utter distraction from the serious business of governing Wales.”

He went on: “Soon after I arrived to work for Carwyn after his election as First Minister in 2009, it was clear that I was entering a toxic environment.

“The atmosphere that existed on the fifth floor and in particular the First Minister’s Office was one of fear and loathing.

“I’m no shrinking violet when it comes to politics. Prior to moving to Cardiff Bay, I worked as a special adviser to the Government Chief Whip at Westminster. I was fully accustomed to the rough and tumble of politics at the very highest level.

“But the behaviour of some at the top of the Welsh Government was like nothing I’d ever seen before. It was pure poison.”

Mr Jones said that other aides working for Mr Jones used smear campaigns against ministers, such as Mr Sargeant.

“Ministers were undermined by senior advisers playing power games and seeking to exert unreasonable control over government and the First Minister himself,” he wrote in a statement.

“Certain ministers who were seen as a threat to these advisers, were frequently the subject of malicious rumours and concerted smear campaigns. Those ministers, including Carl, would have their diaries unreasonably monitored and questioned, their policy proposals shelved and direct access to the First Minister blocked. It went way beyond any office politics or personality clashes.”

He added: “The mind games being employed against ministers – such as Carl – were at times an utter distraction from the serious business of governing Wales.”

Welsh Labour declined to comment on Mr Jones’ statement, but a Welsh Government spokesman said: “We do not recognise these comments. All complaints regarding staff and special adviser conduct are taken seriously and dealt with accordingly.”

Carl Sargeant’s grieving family hit out at the Labour leader in Wales for stalling over an independent inquiry into his tragic suicide.

In a statement today, his family said: “It is deeply concerning that the First Minister should suggest in his address to the media, yesterday, the 9th of November 2017, that all of the answers that the family seek and are entitled to know should be dealt with in a Coroner’s inquest.

“The First Minister is himself an experienced Barrister and will know that the Coroner’s inquest can examine four questions only.

“The identity of the deceased, place of death, time of death and how the death was caused.

“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.

“He will know all of the procedural issues that arise and that one does not prevent the other from taking place.

“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.

“We believe that a full independent inquiry must be established immediately. Its terms of reference, the appointment of the chair and secretariat must be undertaken by a body which is fully independent of the Welsh Government and in consultation with the family.”

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