Carl Sargeant death ruled as suicide as coroner questions pastoral care
A coroner has raised concerns about the support given by the Welsh Government to ministers who lose their posts as he concluded the death of politician Carl Sargeant was suicide.
The Alyn and Deeside AM, 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 by then first minister Carwyn Jones following “bombshell” allegations he groped and touched women.
At the conclusion of his inquest at Ruthin County Hall on Thursday, senior coroner for North Wales (East and Central) John 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.”
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.
“Anyone hoping for a glowing vindication of Carl Sargeant or a damning vilification of Carwyn Jones, or indeed vice versa, will be sorely disappointed.”
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 in place to provide support to Mr Sargeant after he lost his post, despite the probability that 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.”
The inquest had heard five days of evidence in November last year but was adjourned until this week to allow lawyers for Mr Jones to make a legal appeal and after new evidence which may have contradicted the former first minister came to light.
When he was recalled to give evidence on Monday, Mr Jones was accused of being “caught out in a lie” by Leslie Thomas QC, representing Mr Sargeant’s wife Bernie and son Jack, over evidence he had given about the support offered in the wake of his dismissal.
Giving evidence on Tuesday, Mrs Sargeant said her husband had been “shell-shocked” by the allegations.
She said she had believed him “100%” when he denied them and criticised the lack of support given to him following his suspension from the Labour Party.
Cathryn McGahey QC, representing Mr Jones, made several applications to have evidence about the misconduct allegations against Mr Sargeant included in the inquest but all were refused by Mr Gittins.