Sargeant family lawyers want to 'test' witnesses at QC inquiry

By Nick Servini
Political editor, Wales

Image caption,
Carl Sargeant was found dead four days after being sacked as communities secretary

Lawyers representing the family of the late Carl Sargeant have said they would like to question witnesses face to face during the inquiry into his death.

A final decision has yet to be made on how QC Paul Bowen will conduct his inquiry into the first minister's actions in relation to the sacking of the Welsh Government cabinet minister.

Mr Sargeant was found dead in November, four days after he was dismissed.

Hudgell Solicitors said it wanted to "test" witnesses during the inquiry.

Mr Sargeant was facing a Labour Party inquiry into allegations of "unwanted attention, inappropriate touching or groping" when he died.

Solicitor Neil Hudgell said: "We have a number of witnesses we would like to advance as relevant to the inquiry and I am sure the Welsh Government have too, and I know Paul Bowen will be calling for witnesses to come forward.

"At the end of the day we hope to have the opportunity to question those witnesses whether that be in writing or better still in person but that ability to do that has not been scoped yet under the ground rules.

"We would like to test the witnesses on any matters that we feel require testing on."

The lawyers for the family have accused the Welsh Government of dragging its feet over the setting up of the inquiry.

Image caption,
Neil Hudgell says he expects the inquiry to last around six months

A spokesman for the Welsh Government's most senior civil servant, Permanent Secretary Dame Shan Morgan, said: "We are finalising the operational protocol with Paul Bowen QC.

"This is due to be completed very shortly. The protocol sets out the detailed arrangements for the conduct of the independent investigation."

Dame Shan has said the inquiry should take no longer than four months once it gets underway but Mr Hudgell said he expected it to last around six months.

The solicitors say the final terms of reference are: "To conduct an investigation into the first minister's actions and decisions in relation to Carl Sargeant's departure from his post as cabinet secretary for communities and children and thereafter."

Mr Hudgell said they were looking at television interviews Mr Jones took part in a few days after the sacking of Mr Sargeant, when the inquiry had been triggered.

Mr Hudgell said: "We are very closely considering all of the first minister's statements that were made in and around the time of Carl's suspension, sacking, call it what you want, and obviously then his death.

"We are very interested in those statements as part of the overall brief."

An earlier inquiry by Dame Shan into how news of Mr Sargeant's sacking became public found that there had been "no evidence of prior unauthorised sharing of information".

More on this story