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Fri, 3 July 2020

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Rape victim calls on Cabinet minister Alun Cairns to quit over 'sabotaged' trial

Rape victim calls on Cabinet minister Alun Cairns to quit over 'sabotaged' trial
3 min read

A rape victim has urged Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns to resign over claims he knew a Conservative election candidate had "sabotaged" her trial.

Ross England, a former aide to Mr Cairns, made claims about the victim's sexual history in an April 2018 rape trial at Cardiff Crown Court, leading to its collapse.

Mr Cairns went on to endorse Mr England's candidacy as a Welsh Assembly member for the Vale of Glamorgan and has said he was not aware that Mr England's actions had undermined the court case.

A statement from the Conservatives published last week "categorically" stated that Mr Cairns was "completely unaware of the details of the collapse of this trial until they became public".

But BBC Wales has obtained a leaked email to Mr Cairns from his special adviser Geraint Evans dating back to August last year, which said: "I have spoken to Ross and he is confident no action will be taken by the court."

Asked by the BBC whether Mr Cairns should now step down, the victim - a former member of staff for the Conservative Party - said: "Absolutely. 

"If he'd condemned [Mr England] in the first instance, he wouldn't be in this position.

"I would like an apology from the party and Alun Cairns for selecting him."

The claims relate to the rape trial of James Hackett in April 2018. Mr Hackett was found guilty at a retrial and sentenced to five years in jail.

A spokeswoman for the Welsh Conservatives 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."

But Labour and Plaid Cymru have urged the Cabinet minister to consider his position.

Shadow Welsh Secretary Christina Rees 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's Westminster leader, Liz 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."

Labour MP Jo Stevens confronted Boris Johnson about the allegation at Prime Minister's Questions last week, saying the judge in the original case had accused Mr England of having "single-handedly and deliberately sabotaged a rape trial by referring to the victim’s sexual history against the judge’s instructions".

She added: "The trial had to be stopped and started again from scratch, and the defendant was convicted. 

"Unbelievably, the Conservative party then selected Mr England as a Welsh Assembly candidate with the Secretary of State’s endorsement. Is the Prime Minister going to sack Mr England?"

The Prime Minister said it "would be inappropriate for me to comment on ongoing legal proceedings".

Mr England is currently suspended from the party.


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