ALLEGATIONS made against Alyn and Deeside AM Carl Sargeant during talks of a cabinet reshuffle could not be ignored, Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones told the inquest in the death of Carl Sargeant.

During the third day of the inquest into the death of Mr Sargeant, John Gittins, coroner for North Wales (East and Central), heard from Jane Runeckles, a member of the First Minister's special advisor team.

Mrs Runeckles met with First Minister Carwyn Jones and senior special advisor Matt Greenhough several times to discuss the reshuffle which took place on November 3, 2017.

She told the court she had not become aware of Mr Sargeant's mental health issues until after his death on November 7 last year.

According to her, the confidential talks about a possible reshuffle started in the summer of 2017.

There were two reasons for the reshuffle, she said. The first being that the First Minister had made a commitment to an Assembly Member that he was going to bring him into government and the second being that he felt some people had not been given the opportunities he wanted to give them.

The late Carl SargeantThe late Carl Sargeant

Carl Sergeant AM

She said that in a meeting between herself, Mr Greenhough and the First Minister on October 18 rumours about Mr Sargeant had begun to circulate.

"The First Minister was clear that it was tittle tattle at that point. He had nothing to suggest otherwise."

At a meeting on October 26 the allegations were discussed further and by November 1, when the three met again, an official written statement had been submitted by a complainant, the hearing was told.

It was at this point the First Minister decided Mr Sargeant could no longer be a minister, Mrs Runeckles said, and that a reshuffle was to take place two days later.

She agreed with the coroner that the deciding factor in Mr Sargeant's removal had been the complaint.

Asked if it would have been possible to move the reshuffle back to a later date, she said it would have been 'physically' possible but that speculation had become rife that one was to happen and the First Minister had made commitments.

"It could have been done but it didn't suit the politics?" the coroner asked, to which she said she agreed.

John Gittins said a picture was appearing before him in which nobody was taking 'a deep breath' and giving the matter thought.

Carl Sargeant's brother Andy asked Mrs Runeckles: "You knew he was being sacked from a ministerial post, which is a traumatic experience for most people anyway.

"Did you organize anything for Carl regarding support for him?"

She answered that she did not and when asked why, she said: "I work and have worked with politicians for 15 years.

"They live very precarious lives and the whim of the electorate is something they subject themselves to. You go in knowing this can happen."

When asked by the coroner about whether Mr Sargeant had been approached about the allegations, she said that on November 1 the First Minister had spoken of his intention to meet Mr Sargeant about his removal from post.

But Mr Sargeant was not approached beforehand to answer to or deny the allegations, she added.


Carwyn Jones arrives at the inquest in Ruthin

After calling Carwyn Jones to the witness stand, the coroner asked him to describe the job of a First Minister.

He answered: "It is a very onerous job. It is something you go into with eyes open. Difficult decisions have to be taken.

"It is an appointment that requires you 24/7. There is significant pressure that is always present.

"There is pressure on family - they live the job with you in many ways."

Mr Gittins asked him to describe the pressures of a cabinet minister, to which he said: "I was a cabinet minister for just over nine years before becoming First Minister.

"There is pressure but it is not quite as great as being First Minister where, ultimately, the buck stops with you."

He explained the reasoning behind reshuffles, stating: "The key is to a reshuffle is to keep the cabinet fresh, but not so often as to be disruptive.

"I decided November 2017 would be the last reshuffle while I was First Minister."

Referring to that reshuffle, he added: "There was going to be a reshuffle anyway.

"I found myself in a position during discussions over a general reshuffle that I had a written complaint over the conduct of one minister.

"When the allegations came forward about Carl, they couldn't be ignored."

The inquest continues this afternoon.