THE family of former Welsh Government minister Carl Sargeant have challenged a decision not to allow them to cross-examine witnesses at an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding his death.

Mr Sargeant died on November 7 last year, four days after he was sacked as communities and children secretary and suspended from the Labour Party following allegations of misconduct around women.

Following his death an independent inquiry led by Paul Bowen QC into the circumstances around his death was launched, and last week it was announced the inquiry would look into “the first minister’s actions and decisions in relation to Carl Sargeant’s departure from his post as cabinet secretary for communities and children and thereafter”.

But now Mr Sargeant’s family have announced they are challenging the terms of the inquiry agreed between Mr Bowen and the Welsh Government's permanent secretary Dame Shan Morgan. The crux of their concerns is that they will not be allowed to have their own legal representation on the inquiry – which will be held in private – meaning there will not be an opportunity for a barrister representing them to cross-examine witnesses.

Speaking on behalf of the family, Neil Hudgell of Hudgell Solicitors said: “The operational protocol is deeply unsatisfactory.

“While the family take at face value Mr Bowen’s assurances that he will carry out a fair and independent investigation, they do not believe the protocol allows for it.

“The family only agreed to the protocol in the interests of getting on with the inquiry, but they remain deeply concerned about the permanent secretary’s decision-making in relation to the family’s exclusion.

“The permanent secretary, acting on behalf of the first minister, has refused to allow the family to have their own legal representation at the inquiry, meaning they will be unable to have a barrister cross-examine any of the witnesses.”

Mr Hudgell also questioned the timing of the hearings, which he believes have been deliberately convened for when the family’s barrister, Leslie Thomas QC, is required to attend the Grenfell Tower inquiry.

He said: “I have written to both Paul Bowen and the permanent secretary to advise them that we believe the decision-making in relation to the protocol to be unreasonable and we will challenge it by way of a judicial review in the High Court if we have to.”

He added: “The permanent secretary has rejected all of the various requests we have made of her via Paul Bowen.

"The grieving Sargeant family are losing patience and faith in the inquiry and are hurt and upset that everything they have asked for has been ignored.

"Mr Bowen can only go as far as the permanent secretary will allow and we currently have an inquiry process where there will be no effective involvement from the family. How can that be fair?”

But a Welsh Government spokesman called the claims "misconceived".

“The principle that interviews be conducted by the investigation team is a common feature of inquiries and investigations undertaken at the request of government, and this has been agreed with Mr Bowen throughout the recent discussions leading to the final version of the operational protocol.

"The protocol sets out the basis on which the investigation will be conducted and enables the family and any other participant to put forward questions they wish to be asked by the investigator.

“No concerns about timing have been raised previously, indeed earlier representations about timing indicated a wish for the investigation to proceed as quickly as possible, which is now happening.

"We will consider the detailed legal arguments carefully but consider the proposed proceedings to be misconceived.”

An inquest into Mar Sargeant's death has been opened an adjourned. A pre-inquest hearing was held last week, where it was revealed Carwyn Jones will be called to give evidence.

Mr Sargeant's provisional cause of death was recorded as hanging.