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Former first minister ‘puppet master’ in Carl Sargeant investigation, court told

A judicial review was being held challenging an investigation into the Labour AM’s sacking.

Former first minister Carwyn Jones behaved like a “judge in his own court” in controlling an independent investigation into his sacking of late cabinet minister Carl Sargeant, a court has heard.

A judicial review into the investigation was told the independent QC leading the probe had also raised concerns about Mr Jones’s involvement in setting its parameters.

Father-of-two Mr Sargeant was found hanged at his home in Connah’s Quay, Deeside, in November 2017, four days after he was sacked from his job as cabinet secretary for communities and children following claims he had groped and touched women.

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Carwyn Jones arrives to give evidence at the inquest into Mr Sargeant’s death, which was adjourned in November (Andy Kelvin/PA)

After Mr Sargeant’s death, Mr Jones called an investigation to examine his handling of the sacking after pressure from the late AM’s family and Labour politicians.

But lawyers representing Bernie Sargeant, Mr Sargeant’s wife, said correspondence between Mr Jones, his solicitor, the Welsh Government’s permanent secretary, and independent investigator Paul Bowen QC showed the former first minister had been involved “behind the scenes” in setting out the investigation’s protocols.

Lesley Thomas QC revealed the Sargeant family were previously unaware of Mr Jones’s involvement, and said it contradicted an earlier statement from the former first minister which said the investigation would remain “independent” of him.

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Bernadette Sargeant, right, and Jack Sargeant, centre, Carl Sargeant’s wife and son, after the inquest into his death was adjourned (Eleanor Barlow/PA)

Mr Thomas told the High Court in Cardiff on Thursday: “Mr Jones is controlling the process in which he will give evidence.

“He was involved in setting the operational protocol in a clear breach of natural justice and was acting as a judge in his own court.

“Behind the scenes he was acting as puppet master in relation to setting out how the investigation should be structured.”

Mr Jones's actions were entirely in accordance with his duties and indeed in the way events occurred he had no choice but to exercise them Cathryn McGahey QC, representing Mr Jones

Mr Thomas said Mr Jones had influenced protocols which Mr Sargeant’s family were now challenging, including rules which would bar the family’s lawyers from being able to question witnesses.

Also being challenged are rules giving independent investigator Mr Bowen power to bar the family from hearings, and prevent him from being able to order witnesses to give evidence, and prevent oral evidence from being heard in public.

Mr Thomas said the QC had even commented on Mr Jones’s involvement, adding: “Letters show evidence the investigator was concerned about the independence in this inquiry.”

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.

Miss McGahey said: “He did permit when possible to delegate his responsibilities so he was far removed.”

“Mr Jones’s actions were entirely in accordance with his duties and indeed in the way events occurred he had no choice but to exercise them.”

She said the Sargeant family “should have known” that Mr Jones was involved in the setting of the investigation’s parameters, and that it was “unfortunate” that was not the case.

Miss McGahey added the only reason Mr Jones became further involved was after the Sargeant family asked for changes to the investigation which permanent secretary Dame Shan Morgan did not have the power to authorise.

She added: “When he became involved, his involvement led to the family getting more of what they wanted.”

Judges Lord Justice Haddon-Cave and Mr Justice Swift adjourned the hearing and reserved their judgment for a later date.

An inquest into Mr Sargeant’s death was adjourned indefinitely in November.

Press Association

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