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January 16th 2019

Civil Liberties

Legal challenge by Carl Sargeant’s widow to be heard

Dr Neil Hudgell

Dr Neil Hudgell

Managing Director

Legal challenge by Carl Sargeant’s widow to be heard

A judicial review, brought by the widow of former Welsh Assembly member Carl Sargeant, challenging the legality of the independent inquiry set up to investigate the role of former First Minister Carwyn Jones in her husband’s removal from office will be heard in Cardiff this Thursday.

A judicial review, brought by the widow of former Welsh Assembly member Carl Sargeant, challenging the legality of the independent inquiry set up to investigate the role of former First Minister Carwyn Jones in her husband’s removal from office will be heard in Cardiff this Thursday.

Mrs Bernie Sargeant is seeking to challenge the ‘unlawful’ decision-making of the former First Minister of Wales (FM) and the Permanent Secretary to the Welsh Government (PS) in relation to the inquiry’s operational protocol, which will govern how the inquiry will proceed.

The inquiry is led by Paul Bowen QC as chair and independent investigator, but the operational protocol was drafted by the PS, who reported to the then FM.

Mrs Sargeant says that the decision-making by the former FM and PS in relation to the inquiry was done without properly consulting her.

Specifically, she is challenging the following decisions:

  • to bar the family’s lawyers from being able to question witnesses;
  • to allow the independent investigator to bar the family from hearings;
  • to prevent oral evidence from being heard in public;
  • to prevent the independent investigator from being able to order witnesses to give evidence.

She is also challenging the decision by the government to send out a memo to all Welsh government civil servants in June asking them to notify the PS or her colleagues in governance or HR if they had evidence directly relating to the inquiry, rather than go direct to Mr Bowen. An amendment was hurriedly sent advising staff that they could also contact the inquiry.

However, Mrs Sargeant’s lawyers argue that this request may have hampered the inquiry and, despite the amended message, it still read as if to impose a requirement to share evidence with the PS before the independent investigator.

Neil Hudgell of Hudgell Solicitors represents Mrs Sargeant. He says: “Getting answers for the Sargeant family is turning into a hugely difficult and drawn-out process, but we hope that this week’s hearing will get the family one step closer to a meaningful enquiry.”

The firm has instructed Leslie Thomas QC of Garden Court Chambers and Sheryn Omeri of Cloisters Chambers.

The hearing will be in front of Lord Justice Haddon-Cave and Mr Justice Swift at: The Administrative Court for Wales, 2 Park St, Cardiff CF10 1ET. A time will be allocated for the hearing after 2:30pm today. Please see the court listing for an update here. It is expected to last one day, and judgment will be reserved.

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