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Family of Welsh minister lose judicial review bid over conduct of inquiry

The family of the late Welsh minister Carl Sargeant have lost an application for judicial review of the conduct of an inquiry into the events surrounding his death.

Mr Sargeant was removed from his post of Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Children by First Minister Carwyn Jones in November 2017 following a number of allegations about incidents involving women. He was found dead at his home the following day.

The Welsh Government then established an inquiry into Mr Jones’s actions and decisions in the lead-up to Mr Sargeant’s death.

His widow Bernie Sargeant challenged the legality of the proposed operation of the inquiry and in a statement issued by her lawyers Hudgell Solicitors said she had “concerns that the way the Welsh Government is approaching the inquiry has the makings of a cover-up”.

Mrs Sargeant complained that the inquiry’s operational protocol was drafted by the permanent secretary to the Welsh Government, who reports to Mr Jones.

She also objected to decisions to bar her lawyers from questioning witnesses, allowing the family to be barred from hearings, to prevent oral evidence from being heard in public and to prevent the independent investigator from being able to order witnesses to give evidence.

Farbey J dismissed the application. She found there was no power to compel witnesses to attend, that there were opportunities for the family to put questions through the investigator or his counsel, and that Mr Jones was inevitably involved since the power to set up such an inquiry rested with the First Minister even if he was involved in the proceedings.

Nothing required evidence to be given in public and Mrs Sargent would have opportunities to put questions through legal representatives.

A statement from Hudgell Solicitors said: “We have received confirmation from the High Court that our application for permission to apply for judicial review has been refused and are currently discussing the position with our client and counsel.”

The Welsh Government said: “We have been informed by the High Court that permission to apply for a judicial review has been refused. The claimants now have seven days to apply for a reconsideration of this decision.”

Mark Smulian