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November 8 2017 9:04 PM
The family of the Welsh assembly member who took his own life after being accused of sexual harassment says the Labour Party was warned about the "distress and anxiety” the allegations were causing his "mental well-being".
The party was left riven by recriminations yesterday after Carwyn Jones, its First Minister of Wales, was accused of adding to Carl Sargeant’s fears by failing to inform him of the nature of the claims made against him
Mr Jones was also accused by Mr Sargeant’s family of prejudicing the fairness of the investigation into the allegations by appearing on television to discuss the matter.
Mr Sargeant, 49, was found dead at the home he shared with his wife Bernadette and their two children in Connah’s Quay, Flintshire, on Tuesday, just four days after being sacked as cabinet secretary by Mr Jones, following the allegations made against him by at least three women.
A letter between the family’s legal representatives and Labour officials written on Monday and released yesterday reveal that Mr Sargeant only became aware later that the claims involved “unwanted attention, inappropriate touching or groping”.
Huw Bowden, the family’s solicitor, said: “The family wish to disclose the fact that Carl maintained his innocence and he categorically denied any wrongdoing.
The distress of not being able to defend himself properly against these unspecified allegations meant he was not afforded common courtesy, decency or natural justice."
In the letter to Sam Matthews, the Head of Disputes for the Labour Party in London, Mr Bowden goes on to express the "anxiety and distress being caused to our client, particularly as he is yet to receive any details of the allegations that have led to the decisions to date by the First Minister of Wales, the Labour Party in Wales and the Labour Party head office."
It adds that "the ongoing delay is both prejudicial to the preparation of our client's case but also to his physical and mental wellbeing."
The correspondence shows that Labour officials were warned about Mr Sargeant’s is "physical and mental well-being" at least 24 hours before he killed himself,
Mr Sargeant’s family also expressed their anger that First Minister Carwyn Jones was "clearly prejudicing what is allegedly an independent inquiry” by stating on BBC television that he was “aware of a number of incidents” and that he had spoken to the “women involved”.
They go on to voice fears that “there appears to be a very real possibility that the evidence of the witnesses is being manipulated and numerous conversations with the witnesses by various members of the First Minister's Office at the very least must create uncertainties about the credibility of any evidence”.
Senior Labour figures are known to be deeply concerned about the handling of the claims against Mr Sargeant by the Welsh party, with some calling for an independent inquiry into the case.
Mark Tami, a Labour whip and the party’s MP for Alyn and Deeside, told The Daily Telegraph: “If allegations are made about anyone, MP, Assembly member or a member of the public, then they need to be fully investigated and there needs to be a process to deal with that.
“But if you’re accused of something you need to be aware of what the nature of those claims are. It’s difficult for anyone to defend themselves if you don’t know what you’re being accused of and as far as I’m aware Carl didn’t know what he was accused of.
“If you leave a vacuum about what claims have been made then people will speculate, which is very difficult for someone on the receiving end of a complaint.
“We do really need to look at how the process works, whether it’s an independent inquiry or some sort of process in which we look at how this case was handled.”
Mr Tami, who shared a constituency office with Mr Sargeant, added: “There’s a febrile environment at the moment. A lot of stuff is floating around with people putting different bits of stories together and putting someone’s name in the ring.
“Some of the stuff on that Westminster sex pest list was just wrong and you’ve got to be very careful.
“If there are victims they need to be supported fully, but if you’re in public life you are vulnerable to people saying whatever and we need a fair process.”
Labour colleagues in Cardiff said Mr Sargeant had been 'humiliated' and 'isolated' and said Mr Jones faces serious questions about why he sacked him without any investigation.
One female member of staff at the assembly who worked with Mr Sargeant for three years said she never heard of any allegations against him until Friday.
"There was never any problems raised with anyone," the women, in her 30s, said. "So when he found out he was obviously very upset. There has been nothing inappropriate from him when I've been there. He was professional. I would never expect anything from him like has been alleged. "
She added: “He [the first minister] could have handled it better. I do think he should have been told more."
Assembly sources said Mr Sargeant's team are being offered counselling but have yet to receive any condolences from the first minister and have not heard from him since their employer's death.
A Labour Party spokesperson said: "Following allegations brought to the attention of Welsh Labour by Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones, an investigation was launched by the UK Party.
“The Labour Party Governance and Legal Unit spoke with Carl Sargeant and, in line with agreed procedure, outlined the nature of the allegations that had been received and how the complaints process works."
A source with inside knowledge of the party’s procedures said Mr Sargeant received notice of an investigation on Friday and was due to have been subsequently informed of the detailed allegations as part of the preliminary investigation.