Calls for Welsh Secretary to quit over Tory candidate’s ‘sabotaging’ of rape trial

Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns is facing calls to resign after being accused of lying about his knowledge of an allegation that a Conservative candidate had sabotaged a rape trial.

The Cabinet minister claims he had been unaware of former staff member Ross England’s role in the collapsed trial until after the story broke last week.

BBC Wales said it had obtained a leaked email sent to Mr Cairns (pictured) which showed he had been made aware of the allegations as early as August last year.

The email, dated August 2 2018, was sent to Mr Cairns by Geraint Evans, his special adviser, and was also copied to Richard Minshull, director of the Welsh Conservatives.

It said: “I have spoken to Ross and he is confident no action will be taken by the court.”

Four months later Mr England was selected as the Welsh Conservatives’ candidate for the Vale of Glamorgan for the 2021 Welsh Assembly election.

Christina Rees MP, shadow secretary of state for Wales, accused Mr Cairns of “brazenly lying” about his knowledge of the allegation and called on him to resign.

She said: “There are no two ways about this – Alun Cairns has been caught brazenly lying about how much he knew of Ross England’s appalling behaviour at a rape trial.

“The Secretary of State, special advisers and senior Welsh Tory officials knew what had happened. They chose to select Ross England anyway – and to mislead and obfuscate when found out.

“The decision is an error of judgment – the cover-up is unforgivable. Alun Cairns should go, as Secretary of State and as a candidate.”

Plaid Cymru MP Liz Saville Roberts also called for Mr Cairns to resign as Welsh Secretary and withdraw as a General Election candidate after accusing him of a cover-up.

Ms Saville Roberts said: “The revelation that Alun Cairns knew about Ross England’s role in this case before endorsing him as a candidate shows that Mr Cairns is unfit to hold public office.

“At worst, Mr Cairns is complicit in the attempted cover-up of his former staff member’s actions which collapsed a rape trial. At best, he has displayed gross incompetence in judgment, dishonesty and a lack of leadership.”

The allegation relates to the April 2018 trial of Mr England’s friend James Hackett, who was later found guilty of rape after proceedings were restarted.

Labour MP Jo Stevens told the House of Commons last week that the judge in the case, Stephen Hopkins QC, said Mr England had “single-handedly” and “deliberately” sabotaged the trial at Cardiff Crown Court, after ignoring his instructions not to refer to the woman’s sexual history.

Mr England has since been suspended from the party pending the matter being presented to the party’s candidates committee.

The Welsh Conservatives said the email had “no new information” and the party had no record of the judge’s comments relating to Mr England.

A spokeswoman said: “There is no new information from this leaked document confirming an informal conversation which took place a considerable time after the trial collapsed and is consistent with statements made.

“The full details of this case are still not known and we have taken action in writing to the court. All forthcoming information will be taken into account as the party conducts a thorough investigation.”

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