Sargeant family concerned at inquiry delays says solicitor

Credit: PA

An independent inquiry into the sacking of the late Carl Sargeant should not be delayed any further, according to a solicitor representing Labour Assembly Member Jack Sargeant.

The solicitor, Neil Hudgell, has written to the QC appointed to investigate the sacking and handling of allegations made against Carl Sargeant before his death last year.

In it, he describe 'very real concerns' about delays and asks Paul Bowel for an explanation of those delays.

The QC's inquiry is expected to be the most significant of four separate investigations. It will look into the First Minister's handling of allegations of inappropriate behaviour made against Carl Sargeant as well as the reshuffle in which the Alyn and Deeside AM was sacked.

Jack Sargeant took his father's seat in Alyn and Deeside when a by-election was triggered following his death Credit: PA

Earlier this week another inquiry by an Independent Adviser seconded from the Scottish Government cleared Carwyn Jones of misleading AMs in answers about alleged bullying within previous Welsh Governments.

An an initial leak inquiry conducted by the Permanent Secretary also said there had been no unauthorised leaking of the reshuffle which saw Mr Sargeant lose his cabinet job.

Mr Hudgell said that the family's concerns were heightened after a meeting of the Labour group of AMs this week.

During that meeting, he claims, the First Minister told AMs that there was no delay on the part of the Welsh Government and that the Coroner's inquest should resume.

However the solicitor said the Coroner's inquest should wait until Mr Bowen's investigation has concluded and accuses the First Minister of trying to dictate terms.

You can read an extract from the letter below.

A Welsh Government source said it would not be appropriate to comment on what is a private letter between the Sargeant family and Paul Bowen QC.

We would be grateful for Mr Bowen’s comments in several respects. In a closed Labour group meeting yesterday Labour AM [Redacted] tabled a question to the First Minister regarding the continuing delays in your inquiry starting, his reply being that there was “no delay on their part.

He also made a comment in the same meeting that there was nothing to stop the inquest from resuming. You will understand our client’s very real concerns. First, that there is no reason for the inquiry to be delayed further.

Our client has learnt through comments attributed to the Permanent Secretary that you were deemed to have accepted the draft protocol on appointment but that you are now seeking to renegotiate the same.

Could we please seek clarity what it is that needs to be finalised and a timescale for doing so.

Secondly, our very strong representations remain that the inquest should not be reconvened until conclusion of the inquiry given the amount of material likely to be disclosed to assist the coroner with his investigation.

We shall be reinforcing our client’s views on this to the coroner.

It is most certainly inappropriate as well as hugely insensitive for the First Minister to be perceived to be dictating terms as to how the various inquiries are taken forward. His manner in yesterday’s dialogue and throughout is causing considerable distress to our client and his family. The inescapable fact here is that someone sadly has lost their life, a much loved family member, and due process needs to be followed expeditiously to enable those closest to him to try and find some closure.

– Neil Hudgell, Hudgell Solicitors

Responding, leader of the Welsh Conservatives Andrew RT Davies said "the Sargeant family's frustration and distress is understandable"

The First Minister’s judgement has come under considerable scrutiny in recent days, and this letter will only add to the growing pressure his leadership is under.

The Sargeant family’s frustration and distress is understandable, and it very much feels as though this process is being kicked as deep into the long grass as it possibly can.

We’ve seen the very worst of Carwyn Jones this week, and we cannot allow his bully-boy tactics to prevent the truth from coming out.

This letter reveals the tactics being deployed to influence and control the upcoming inquiry, and that is simply unacceptable.

A man has lost his life in tragic circumstances, and there is a responsibility on everyone involved in this process to get things moving so that the family can find the answers they need to find peace with what has happened.

– Andrew RT Davies, Leader of the Welsh Conservatives