MORE support needs to be given to sacked ministers, a coroner has said after concluding the inquest of former Alyn and Deeside AM.

Carl Sargeant, 49, was found hanged at his home at Englefield Avenue on November 7, 2017.

John Gittins, senior coroner for North Wales (East and Central) ruled that Mr Sargeant had intended to take his own life, recording a conclusion of suicide.

Mr Gittins said he promised the inquest would not be a ‘trial by press, politics or personality’ and the ‘challenging’ process followed the ‘murkiest’ of paths into the world of politics.

The hearing heard how Mr Sargeant was known to have mental health issues and former First Minister Carwyn Jones was aware of the ‘life event’ in 2014 but ‘didn’t recognise ongoing mental health issues thereafter affecting Mr Sargeant despite working closely with him’.

Allegations were made in 2014 and were discussed, however, following allegations in 2017, Mr Gittins said the former First Minister decided Mr Sargeant could no longer be a cabinet member.

The hearing heard how the reason behind the sacking would ‘generate significant media interest’ which ‘undoubtedly added to Mr Sargeant’s pressures’.

Mr Gittins said although receiving support from family and friends and contact from Ann Jones AM, he found that it was not support being provided in the nature of pastoral care ‘despite contradictory information being given to me by Carwyn Jones’.

He went on to say that the dismissal resulted in a deterioration of mental health, adding: “Although there was nothing preventing the First Minister contacting Mr Sargeant over the course of that weekend, no-one did.”

Mr Gittins told the hearing that changes had been made by the Labour Party such as phone lines and a safeguarding hub as well as changes made by the First Minister’s office, but he remains concerned over the lack of support.

The Leader:

Carl Sargeant

He said the question comes down to whether he will be ‘comfortable’ with himself that the current FM will do the ‘right thing’, adding: “Am I still concerned? Yes.

“My answer comes from both my head and my heart. I’m concerned that not enough has been done by Welsh Government to ensure that in the future.”

Mr Gittins said the concern is regardless of the fact that they may continue as Assembly Members.

He said that support should never end because ‘we are talking about people’s lives’ and he will ‘not allow it to end’.

He added: “It’s not a matter of law, it’s a matter of humanity and that’s a responsibility of us all”.

Brother Andy Sargeant said the family are ‘very proud’ of Mr Sargeant’s achievements and ‘words can’t explain how much he is greatly missed by family, extended family and friends every day’.

Outside of the inquest, Jack Sargeant AM said it had been 611 days since his father’s death.

He said: “At times it seems to have been forgotten that this was an inquest into the death of a dearly beloved husband, father, son and brother. Instead it has felt more like a criminal trial. All too often politics have been at play with the sole aim of blackening a dead man’s name to protect another. Where has been the humanity in that?

“There is no stigma to suicide and if Dad’s case highlights anything, it is that you can never truly know what is going on in someone’s mind. Having access to the right support is essential.

“We would encourage anyone worried about someone to reach out. We thought we had done everything we could as a family. It’s heart breaking to know that we couldn’t save him.

“We sincerely hope that no political family will go through what we have been through these past 19 months. As we have heard on the witness stand, ministers are not employees and therefore, were not afforded any employment rights and had limited access to support. While they might not be employees, they are human beings, with their own fears and frailties.

“It was reassuring to hear from the Labour Party about some of the changes made around safeguarding and for the steps taken at the Assembly since Dad’s death.

“It is also notable that upon taking post, the new First Minister Mark Drakeford immediately set to learn lessons by putting in place his own guidelines around the impact of reshuffles on ministers’ mental health for which we are grateful.

“However, as the coroner has recognised this does not go far enough and we fully endorse the coroner’s report to prevent future deaths. It’s too late for Dad but may save someone else.

“We hope that political parties and governments across the Union take note and make it policy for safeguarding measures to be in place for all public servants.

“We are very grateful to the coroner and his team for the careful consideration they have again showed us. We also want to thank our legal team, Neil Hudgell, Vicky Richardson and Leslie Thomas QC and all those people across the country for the love and kindness they have continued to show us at what has been, and continues to be, the worst of times.

“We will now take a period of reflection to take stock and review our options.”

A spokesperson for the First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “I extend my deepest condolences to the Sargeant family.

“I know they continue to grieve for Carl. The coroner has made a regulation 28 report to the Welsh Government in relation to the prevention of future deaths and we will consider this carefully and respond in full.”