Ross England: Rape trial 'sabotage' Tory candidate suspended

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Ross England
Image caption,
Ross England has been suspended by the Welsh Conservatives

A Tory assembly candidate who was accused by a crown court judge of deliberately sabotaging a rape trial has been suspended by his party.

Ross England was selected eight months after the trial collapsed.

While giving evidence, he claimed he had a casual sexual relationship with the victim, which she denied.

Welsh Conservative chairman Byron Davies said: "Ross England has been suspended pending this matter being presented to the candidates committee."

Boris Johnson refused to say whether or not he would sack the Vale of Glamorgan candidate at prime minister's questions on Wednesday.

Giving evidence in the April 2018 trial, Mr England made claims about the sexual relationship after the judge Stephen John Hopkins QC, had made it clear that evidence of the sexual history of the victim was inadmissible.

Mr Hopkins said to Mr England: "Why did you say that? Are you completely stupid", later telling him to: "Get out of my court."

The defendant, James Hackett, was later convicted following a retrial.

Media caption,

Boris Johnson said he could not comment because of ongoing legal proceedings - although proceedings have concluded in the case

It is not clear from Lord Davies' statement whether Mr England is suspended from his candidacy, as a party member, or both.

BBC Wales has asked for clarification.

Party officials have also not answered questions about whether they had knowledge of the incident when he was selected.

Leanne Wood, who earlier called for Mr England to be deselected, said on Twitter: "Good. This should have happened before now, but at least action [has] finally been taken on this."

Mr England has worked for Alun Cairns, the Welsh Secretary and Conservative Vale of Glamorgan MP.

Earlier on Wednesday Preseli Pembrokeshire Conservative MP Stephen Crabb said he was not aware of the details but added: "There needs to be some kind of process to look at these allegations and make a decision about it".

Media caption,

A rape victim says Ross England had a "formulated plan" to wreck the trial of her attacker

Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns endorsed Mr England as the Assembly election candidate following his selection in December 2018.

He described him as a "friend and colleague" who it would be "a pleasure to campaign with".

In a statement released on Tuesday, Mr England said: "I was not told that anything had been ruled inadmissible prior to my testimony.

"I gave an honest answer, honouring the oath I took to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

"I complied fully with the conditions of the court before and after the trial."

Analysis by Felicity Evans, BBC Wales political editor

Will that be the end of the matter? It will not, because many questions remain unanswered by the party.

The Conservatives have failed to answer questions about whether they had knowledge of this case when they selected him.

Mr England denies wrongdoing but his actions had very serious consequences.

The trial had to be abandoned, a rape victim endured the added trauma of having to go through a retrial and the delivery of justice to a rapist was delayed.

Even though he was not a candidate in the forthcoming campaign, I think the party realised this row could overshadow it. It is not clear they've done enough to stop that.

It also raises questions about the rigour of the party's selection process.