Widow of Welsh minister Carl Sargeant wins legal battle over inquiry

The widow of a former Welsh Government minister who was found dead while facing sexual misconduct allegations has won a High Court challenge over the legality of an inquiry into his sacking.

Two judges sitting in London on Wednesday ruled in favour of Bernie Sargeant, whose 49-year-old husband, Carl Sargeant, was discovered hanged at his home just days after his removal from office.

Following his death in November 2017, then-first minister Carwyn Jones announced an independent inquiry into how he had handled his former minister’s sacking after pressure from Mr Sargeant’s family and Labour politicians.

Carl Sargeant inquest
Former Welsh first minister Carwyn Jones arrives at Ruthin County Hall to give evidence at the inquest into Carl Sargeant’s death (Andy Kelvin/PA)

But Mrs Sargeant went to court to challenge the legality of the operation of the inquiry.

At a hearing in Cardiff in January, Lord Justice Haddon-Cave and Mr Justice Swift heard argument from Lesley Thomas QC, representing the Sargeant family, that Mr Jones was “involved in setting the operational protocol in a clear breach of natural justice and was acting as a judge in his own court”.

Cathryn McGahey QC, representing Mr Jones, said the former first minister’s actions were entirely lawful and that he was responsible for setting the parameters of the investigation by law.

Mrs Sargeant challenged decisions taken by Mr Jones concerning the procedures to be followed by an independent investigator, appointed by Mr Jones to look into his own actions in relation to her husband.

Carl Sargeant inquest
(left to right) Solicitor Neil Hudgell with Bernadette and Jack Sargeant, the widow and son of Carl Sargeant, outside Ruthin County Hall after the inquest into his death (Eleanor Barlow/PA)

Allowing her challenge, the two judges ruled that “the procedural decisions that were taken will need to be reconsidered”.

They said it had been “unlawful for Mr Jones to have been involved in the decisions to adopt those arrangements”.

Mr Sargeant, from Connah’s Quay, North Wales, was found dead four days after being removed from his role as cabinet secretary for communities and children following claims that he had assaulted women.

His family have said he was not told the details of what he was accused of and was unable to properly defend himself.

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