The senior politician was devastated to lose his job and to be suspended from the Labour party, and friends have said he had not been told the detail of the claims against him by the time of his death on Tuesday.
Sir Alistair Graham, a former chair of the committee on standards in public life, called for a senior lawyer to carry out a review. He said he did not believe Sargeant, a married father of two, had been dealt with fairly and said the decision to remove him from the cabinet had been taken hastily.
“You don’t dismiss somebody from a position without first going through due process,” he told BBC Radio Wales.
He said anyone being accused should know the detail of allegations, be given time to consider them and have an opportunity to offer a defence before final conclusions were made.
The question of what, if any, formal pastoral care was offered to Sargeant after he was sacked has also been raised.
“There is a duty of care. When serious allegations come which may go back many years then there can be a very serious shock to people. They have to explain to their family that allegations have been made, they can feel extremely vulnerable,” Graham said.
“There is a danger you get trial by media. Having a proper process gets put to one side and the pressure comes on the leaders of political parties or the government to take immediate action. We should always remember that justice requires a fair process.”
The shadow minister for women and equalities, Dawn Butler, said Labour’s policy was for an accused person to be told what allegation they faced, and she called for a full investigation.
“There needs to be an independent professional body that comes out and investigates what happened in that circumstance, because it doesn’t sound as though everything that should have happened, happened. It needs to be fully investigated and independently investigated,” she said during an interview with Emma Barnett on BBC Radio 5 Live.
“I don’t know what happened and how it transpired and how it was handled. But the Labour party’s process is that once there’s an allegation, the person is supposed to be told what that allegation is, because otherwise they’re not able to produce a defence on the issue. So I’m not sure what happened, but the procedure definitely is [that] you’re supposed to be told what the allegation is.”
She said of Sargeant’s death: “It was just heartbreaking. Terrible, terrible shock. And it’s kind of very sobering as well, because it highlights that trial by media is a dangerous route to go down, because the consequences are varied and stark, and in this case extremely tragic, and my condolences and love and hugs go out to his family and friends.”
Within hours of the interview, Butler rowed back on her comments in a tweet:
Mark Tami, a friend of Sargeant and the Labour MP for his constituency, said the party had failed in its duty of care to Sargeant and all employers should learn lessons from the case.
Tami said he last spoke to Sargeant on the phone on Friday and exchanged texts with him over the weekend. He confirmed that Sargeant was finding it “very difficult” to defend himself over an allegation of sexual harassment when he had not been told the details.
“I spoke to him on Friday and he was shocked. He told me that he’d been sacked from the cabinet and I said ‘Oh God, sorry to hear that’. As you would say,” Tami said.
“And he said: ‘Well, that’s bad, but I’ve also been apparently accused of sexual harassment.’ And I said: ‘Woah – well, what’s that?’ and he said: ‘I just don’t know.’ That was at that stage.”
Tami, who shares a parliamentary office with Sargeant in Connah’s Quay, north Wales, said he texted the former minister supportive messages including “thinking of you” and “lots and lots of colleagues being very supportive” over the weekend, to which Sargeant replied: “Thanks.”
“This is open to some speculation but, as far as I know, I don’t think he knew anything more [about the allegations],” he said.
“Clearly, if anyone makes any complaints about an assembly member or a member of parliament, that should be investigated and you need a procedure in place that does that. But there’s also a duty of care on both sides.
“It’s very difficult to defend yourself if you don’t know what that allegation, or the breadth of that allegation, is. That’s something I think we need to learn lessons on, from this – not only for the assembly, but for parliament and everywhere really. We need proper procedures and we need support in there.
“I wouldn’t say parliament is perfect because it isn’t, but because it is bigger, maybe there is more of that than there is in the assembly, because it’s quite a small institution. I just think maybe because of its size there isn’t that level of support that you might get otherwise.”
Jenny Rathbone, the Labour assembly member for Cardiff Central, said: “Clearly, he wasn’t dealt with fairly in the most basic sense. If allegations are made against you, you must know what they are so you can respond to them. That doesn’t appear to have happened.”
She said she was not aware of any formal pastoral care being offered to Sargeant. “There were a lot of people sending him sympathetic messages and ringing him up, but he was devastated. It’s bruising to lose your job, but it’s even worse if you’re front-page headlines,” Rathbone said.
“Clearly, we need to take any allegation of abuse seriously, but Carl Sargeant was almost the last person you would expect to face these allegations.”
She said Sargeant was a “genuine feminist” who campaigned passionately against domestic violence. Rathbone said her final conversation with Sargeant was about period poverty and he assured her he would find money to help people who could not afford menstrual products.
Sargeant’s death will put political pressure on the Welsh first minister, Carwyn Jones. Sargeant was summoned to Jones’s office on Friday, against a backdrop of intense focus on the conduct of politicians at Westminster and elsewhere. It is understood three women made complaints against him, but there was no police involvement.
Shortly afterwards, Sargeant released a statement saying: “I met the first minister 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. I have written to the general secretary of Welsh Labour requesting an urgent independent investigation into these allegations in order to allow me to clear my name.
“Given the nature of the allegations, I agreed with the first minister that it was right that I stand aside from cabinet. I look forward to returning to government once my name has been cleared.”
Jones paid tribute to Sergeant on Tuesday, but has yet to comment on the growing disquiet over how the allegations have been handled.
• In the UK, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14. Other international suicide helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.
This article was written by Steven Morris and Josh Halliday, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 8th November 2017 13.48 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010