Wales politics

Carwyn Jones: Wales has 'gone backwards' over sexual misconduct

Carwyn Jones
Image caption Carwyn Jones said "it's not safe" for women in Wales to come forward with harassment claims

Wales has "gone backwards 30 years" in terms of women feeling able to come forward with accusations of sexual misconduct, according to Carwyn Jones.

The former first minister said Wales is "behind most countries in western Europe" because of the fallout from Carl Sargeant's death.

Mr Sargeant was found hanged at his home in Flintshire in November 2017.

He was sacked as minister for communities and children over claims of inappropriate behaviour towards women.

The former Alyn and Deeside AM denied the claims but the investigation by the Labour Party was dropped after his death.

Mr Jones doubts whether restarting the investigation would help anybody because of the "emotional cost" of the "brutal process" to Mr Sargeant's family, himself and others.

He added: "I think there comes a point where we've got to say, 'how much further can this go now?'"

He insisted he was not calling for a halt to the official investigation - the Bowen Inquiry - into how he sacked Mr Sargeant.

However the Bridgend AM added there was "absolutely no doubt" that women are now less likely to come forward with accusations of sexual misconduct.

"Lists of women were given to media outlets - the Telegraph and the Sun were two - because they phoned me and read out a list of names and asked me to confirm who the complainants were," he said.

"What was that all about? How did that help anybody?

"And, in fact, we're in a situation now where it is not safe for women to come forward in Wales.

"The people who did this have created a situation where we've gone backwards 30 years.

"In their anger and temper, what they've actually done is made it far easier for men to harass women because women won't come forward anymore. Why would you if you thought you were going to be vilified, abused or named in newspapers or websites?"

Image caption Carl Sargeant was found dead days after he was sacked from his cabinet level job

Following the inquest into Mr Sargeant's death, coroner John Gittins recorded a conclusion of suicide and said more support should be available to sacked ministers.

However Mr Jones responded: "The coroner said there should be things put in place, but he hasn't said what that should look like.

"You do ask yourself those questions. But that's what I've wrestled with - what exactly could've been done differently?

"I know this is a tragedy but it doesn't mean the process itself was wrong."

Mr Jones said he had "no idea" Mr Sargeant had been diagnosed with depression in 2012 despite the coroner's claim he would 'probably' have known of the minister's vulnerability.

The Sargeant's family barrister accused Mr Jones of lying under oath about the nature of the support he had asked Labour's Vale of Clwyd AM Ann Jones to give Mr Sargeant after his sacking. Mr Jones denied the accusation.

The coroner said Mr Jones had "properly and appropriately" corrected information, though only after "the true picture came to light" from Ann Jones.

Asked why he made the mistake, the ex-first minister offered: "At the time, everything was so fast-moving it's very difficult to remember every single detail."

Mr Jones said he did not think it had been right to reach out to Mr Sargeant's family during the inquest but said he would be "more than happy" to meet in the future.

He added: "I was never Carl's enemy and I'm not [the family's] enemy. I always got on very, very well with Carl."

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