Welsh Cabinet member Carl Sargent’s suicide results from anonymous sexual harassment allegation

On November 3, 2017, Welsh politician Carl Sargeant was implicated in a sexual harassment scandal, forcing him out of office:

Carl Sargeant has been suspended from the Labour Party as an investigation takes place.

He was [Cabinet] secretary for communities and children.

Mr Sargeant has called for an “urgent” investigation “in order to allow me to clear my name”. First Minister Carwyn Jones made the announcement ahead of a reshuffle of his cabinet team.

[…]

In a statement, the Alyn and Deeside AM said: “I met with the first minister today and he informed me allegations had been made about my personal conduct, which was shocking and distressing to me.

“The details of the allegations have yet to be disclosed to me.”

In an update on Monday:

The first minister said he had become “aware of a number of incidents at the beginning of last week”.

“I asked my office to speak to those women involved who had provided detail of those incidents. As a result of those conversations I felt I had no choice but to refer the matter to the party.”

Mr Jones said the women spoke to his office on the basis of confidentiality.

Then on November 7, 2017, he was found dead at home, considered a suicide. As the Daily Mail reports:

His wife Bernie, 48, and children Jack, 23, and Lucy, 25, said they are ‘devastated beyond words’ because the family have lost ‘the glue that bound us together’.

Mr Sargeant was sacked by Carwyn Jones on Friday after three women contacted the First Minister’s office and made allegations of sexual misconduct.

The father-of-two was in New York with his wife of 25 years when it emerged and he had pledged ‘to clear my name’ in a statement four days before his death.

Again, what led up to this:

Father-of-two Mr Sargeant returned from his family US break to be called into the office of the Labour First Minister Carwyn Jones, who sacked him.

By many accounts, Sargent truly cared about his constituents – a rare breed of politician these days:

A neighbour across the road from his home, who did not want to be named, said: ‘He’s got a wife and children over there, my heart goes out to them, it’s shocking.

‘I’ve known him since being a child. He would be going about canvassing with the local MPs and that type of stuff.

‘He’s a man who still lives in an ex-council house, he’s down to earth and a family man. What happened to innocent until proven guilty?’

Another local said: ‘He’s a lovely, loyal, honest man, who would do anything to help anyone.

‘He would try his hardest to sort anything out for you, no matter who you were or where you came from. He knew his roots. These allegations, it’s all a load of c***.’

His colleagues paid their respects too, including the guy who fired him:

First Minister Carwyn Jones said: ‘Carl was a friend as well as a colleague and I am shocked and deeply saddened by his death. He made a big contribution to Welsh public life and fought tirelessly for those he represented both as a minister and local assembly member. He will be a great loss to our party and to the Senedd.’

Yeah, too bad about your friend, right?

Perhaps the best lesson is that if accusers are anonymous, the accused should be too, and due process should occur before actions are taken.

The meaning of his death

Was Carl Sargeant’s suicide evidence of his guilt? The opposite is more likely. Guilty parties often will hide behind lawyers, issue non-apology apologies, or perform similar antics. However, the falsely accused sometimes have been known to kill themselves. Several occurrences could be named, but the following particularly stands out.

In the aftermath of the 1987 Tawana Brawley case, one of the accused men – Officer Harry Crist Jr. – killed himself four days later. After a media circus lasting nearly a year, the grand jury – a judicial institution that will proverbially “indict a ham sandwich” – dismissed it as a hoax, so it never went to trial. Assistant DA Steven Pagones – another one of the falsely accused – won a defamation lawsuit and eventually started collecting a little of the damages.

For a respected citizen, it’s certainly shocking to be blindsided by a sex scandal – faced with ignominy and loss of livelihood, and his friends turning away from him. Events like that can prompt thoughts of suicide, and others carry it further.

Unanswered questions

Presently, details are still sketchy. Did Carl Sargeant say “nice dress”, or was it something more? Did anything happen at all? We don’t know. All this was undisclosed stuff from anonymous sources. They didn’t even tell him what he was accused of doing – a shtick straight out of Kafka’s The Trial. The only hints so far might be in another recent article:

Cathy Owens, who runs political consultancy agency Deryn, spoke out about the issue and said a politician once tried to get into bed with her while staying overnight at her house.

She was speaking to Sunday Politics Wales about the sexual misconduct scandal engulfing Westminster.

Welsh party leaders will discuss the issue at the Senedd on Tuesday.

It’s not clear if Carl Sargeant is included in all this, but if so, at least the Welsh Senate had one less item to discuss, as Tuesday was when he killed himself. Further:

She said: “I was very early on in my career, this was an elected representative, I made clear that nothing was going to happen, he was staying in the spare room, and sometime later [I remember him] coming into my bedroom and trying to get into my bed.

“In another situation someone has come into the taxi that I’m going home in.”

If Carl Sargeant was described in either of these two incidents, I’m guessing that’s the second matter. As a married man, he probably wouldn’t be staying overnight in someone else’s house. Riding in the same taxi seems more likely (which is all the article has to say about it). If that’s all there was to it, then up until now, I wasn’t aware that riding in the same cab was even “problematic”.

The final and greatest question is this: was it worth his life?

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Welsh Cabinet member Carl Sargent’s suicide results from anonymous sexual harassment allegation

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