Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones has said he had “no alternative” over his handling of claims against former Communities Secretary Carl Sargeant.
Sargeant had been removed as a Welsh Government minister and suspended from the Labour Party by Jones because he was facing allegations of “unwanted attention, inappropriate touching or groping”.
The Alyn and Deeside AM is understood to have taken his own life four days after the claims emerged.
In the aftermath of criticism over the party’s handling of the allegations, Jones gave a statement in Cardiff on Thursday where he said he acted “by the book”.
“I had no alternative but to take the action that I did and I hope that people will understand that,” he told reporters.
Jones made no mention of resigning as Wales’s most senior politician amid calls for him to step down.
Clearly emotional, Jones said he and Sargeant were friends who “never had a cross word” and that these were “the darkest days” for Wales. He also noted “inaccuracies” in press reports.
Jones said: “Carl was my friend. In all the years that I knew him, I never had a cross word with him, never argued with him. For 14 years we worked together. He was a great chief whip and a minister who served his country with distinction.
“But Carl was a true force of nature. He drove through more legislation than any other minister, not just through force of argument but through sheer force of personality and persuasion.”
He added: “Wales has lost a person of great warmth, ability and charisma. These are the darkest days that any of us can remember in this institution. But they are darkest of all for the family. And we must respect their right to grieve in peace at this time.”
Jones made his statement in Cardiff after a meeting with Labour AMs.
Sargeant’s heartbroken family have said the politician’s distress at being unable to defend himself properly meant he was not afforded “common courtesy, decency or natural justice”.
A friend of Sargeant said Jones’ treatment of his former minister had been “unforgivable” and he should “do the right thing and resign”.