THE LABOUR Party has learnt lessons from the ‘tragic death’ of a former Welsh Government Minister, an inquest heard.

The inquest into the death of Carl Sargeant, former AM for Alyn and Deeside, resumed yesterday.

At the hearing held in Ruthin, the inquest heard how the Labour Party had a safeguarding unit that could be contacted by any member for advice, support or guidance, which was in place before Mr Sargeant’s death.

But changes now included reviewing disciplinary procedures and reviewing the handling of allegations and breach of the party rules and other accommodations for people who are vulnerable.

Gordon Nardell QC for the Labour Party, said: “The Labour Party has learnt lessons from Carl Sargeant’s death.”

A statement from Peter Greening, senior private secretary, said following the last reshuffle in 2018 by the First Minister Mark Drakeford, discussions had been made with the Assembly, regarding support for outgoing Ministers.

In another statement, Lord Iain McNichol, then general secretary of the Labour Party, said it had been ‘appropriate’ to suspend Mr Sargeant while an investigation took place.

Earlier that day, the hearing heard how a ‘tactical’ and ‘opportunistic’ application for a former council leader to give evidence was dismissed.

Cathryn McGahey QC, representing the former First Minister Carwyn Jones, called for Aaron Shotton to give evidence based on the ‘credibility’ of evidence heard by Bernadette Sargeant in Tuesday’s hearing.

Mrs Sargeant had said she knew of no other matters relating to other women other than the letter she received several years ago - saying Mr Sargeant was unfit to be around women.

The hearing heard how the application would ‘contradict or add to evidence already given’ as there are claims the family received a second anonymous letter, making claims about his behaviour.

Ms McGahey said Mrs Sargeant’s evidence ‘may not have been accurate’.

The hearing heard how an anonymous letter had been sent about Mr Sargeant being seen at a beer garden with an adult daughter of a politician.

Ms McGahey said Mrs Sargeant must have known about the letter. She added that it was ‘important’ to know what was on Mr Sargeant’s mind before his death.

In a statement, Mr Shotton also said an alleged incident involving Mr Sargeant had occurred at the evening reception of his wedding, although he said he did not witness it.

Leslie Thomas QC, representing Jack and Bernie Sargeant, said:

“Take the evidence that Mrs Sargeant gave yesterday, she said she doesn’t know anything about an anonymous letter. Nothing has been said to undermine that.

“Carl Sargeant was seen in a public house with an adult who is a politician’s member of family. There are no allegations of misconduct. Even Mr Shotton doesn’t know the detail.

“Secondly, in relation to the incidents said to have occurred at Mr Shotton’s wedding, it’s clear Mr Shotton doesn’t know about allegations. Mr Shotton talks about there being rumour. This court isn’t about rumour. This court deals with facts.

“How are these matters going to assist you? You deal with facts, not rumour and speculation. The deceased person isn’t here to defend themselves. There has been no investigation into these rumours.”

Ms McGahey said this application is for different reasons. She said the wedding incident is not a rumour and although Mr Shotton said he did not witness it, it was discussed by guests widely.

She said Mrs Sargeant as a guest at the wedding would have known, adding: “It goes back to the credibility of her evidence.”

Ms McGahey said this is about a thorough investigation as to what led to Mr Sargeant’s death and what could lead to the prevention of future deaths.

John Gittins, senior coroner for North Wales (East and Central) said he was ‘surprised’ by the application.

He said this was an inquest, not a trial, adding: “It appears to me tactical in nature.

“It was clear there were allegations of a sexual nature and Mr Sargeant knew of the allegations. He’s not on trial.

“It seeks to get around my previous ruling.

“He was seen in a public house, how is that misconduct? At Aaron Shotton’s wedding, he himself doesn’t know of the allegations.

“This court must deal with facts not rumour.”

Mr Gittins said Ms McGahey ‘speculates that Mrs Sargeant has forgotten’ about other allegations made, but that was ‘not the impression’ he got from her evidence.

The coroner dismissed similar applications last year which would result in Aaron Shotton giving evidence.

In the closing statements Cathryn McGahey said:

“There’s no reason to believe further support would have prevented Mr Sargeant from taking his own life.

“Mr Sargeant knew how to access mental health support.”

Leslie Thomas asked Mr Gittins to decide if Carwyn Jones’ evidence changed for ‘innocent or non-innocent reasons’ regarding the ‘alleged’ care in place for Mr Sargeant.

Georgina Wolfe, representing the Labour Party, said significant changes have been made such as safeguarding phone lines being fully publicised and signposting.

However, she added in terms of an individual knowing the allegations made against them ‘it is essential’ an investigation is conducted beforehand as it is in ‘nobody’s interest to give wrong or incorrect information’. Unfortunately, this can lead to the accused being in ‘limbo’ until the investigation is over.

The inquest is set to conclude today.