Ross England row: Rape victim wants Alun Cairns to quit

  • Published
Alun Cairns (L) and Ross England (R)
Image caption,
At the time of Ross England's (R) selection to stand as an assembly member, Alun Cairns (L) endorsed Mr England as a "friend and colleague"

A rape victim has called on a UK cabinet minister to quit after his former aide - a Tory Welsh assembly candidate - "sabotaged" her trial.

Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns denied knowing about this, but BBC Wales has seen an email sent to him in August 2018 mentioning the matter.

Mr England was picked as the assembly election candidate in December 2018.

Mr Cairns has been asked to comment.

Asked if the minister should resign, the victim - who worked for the Conservative Party - said: "Absolutely. If he'd come out and condemned Ross [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 in the first place. I can't believe that not one senior Welsh Conservative has said that what he did was wrong."

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

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

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Mr Cairns said he only became aware of Ross England's role in the trial's collapse when the story broke last week

Mr England, who was selected as the candidate for the Vale of Glamorgan, said he had given an "honest answer" while giving evidence at the rape trial of his friend James Hackett.

Mr England told the court he had a casual sexual relationship with the complainant - which she denied - despite the judge in the case making it clear that evidence of the sexual history of the victim was inadmissible.

The judge, Stephen John Hopkins QC, said to him: "Why did you say that? Are you completely stupid?

"You have managed single-handed, and I have no doubt it was deliberate on your part, to sabotage this trial… get out of my court."

Hackett was subsequently convicted of rape at a retrial.

Mr England was suspended as a candidate for the Vale of Glamorgan and as an employee last week after details of the court case emerged and the party said a "full investigation will be conducted".

Image caption,
Mr England was selected to stand for the Welsh Conservatives for the 2021 assembly election

At the time of his selection to stand as an assembly member, Mr Cairns endorsed Mr England as a "friend and colleague" with whom "it will be a pleasure to campaign".

A Welsh Conservatives source told the BBC: "I can't really see how he [Mr Cairns] can possibly carry on - the toxic nature of these revelations could bring down the whole Conservative campaign in Wales.

"If he did have any decency he'd put the party and country first and resign."

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."

Christina Rees, Labour's shadow secretary of state for Wales, said the decision to select Mr England as a candidate was "an error of judgement" and called on Mr Cairns to resign.

Echoing the call, Plaid Cymru MP Liz Saville Roberts said: "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 judgement."

In the first of two statements issued on Thursday, Welsh Tory party chairman Lord Davies of Gower said the party only became aware of the "full extent of the proceedings" when Hackett's appeal process ended in October.

He said: "We were fully aware that Ross England was involved as a witness in a sensitive case. We are also aware of the responsibility we have as employers.

"Since the end of the Appeal Court case, we have now been made aware of the full extent of the proceedings."

Image caption,
Mr England gave a speech at the Welsh Conservative conference in 2016

In a second statement, he said he could "categorically state" he and Mr Cairns were "completely unaware of the details of the collapse of this trial until they became public this week".

Mr England used to work for Mr Cairns in the Vale of Glamorgan and was selected as the party's candidate to fight for the constituency seat at the 2021 Welsh assembly elections.

Mr Cairns previously told BBC Wales he only became aware of Mr England's role in the trial's collapse when the story broke last week.

In a statement, he said he only became aware of the collapse of the trial "some considerable time afterwards and had no knowledge of the role of Ross England".

Mr England said he acted honestly during the collapsed trial and did not know that any evidence had been ruled inadmissible.

The victim said Mr England's Conservative selection "shows how little respect they have for me".

She added: "It is completely shocking to me that Ross England would stand up in court and say these things given that they are untrue.

"He was asked if we worked together, and the answer to that is yes.

"Nobody asked him if we were in a sexual relationship or not. For him to just blurt that out proves to me that it was a formulated plan that he and whoever else conjured to try and derail the trial.

"I think it was an absolutely deliberate attempt to sabotage the trial."

In a statement, Mr England said: "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."

One Conservative Party source told BBC Wales they called the party's Cardiff headquarters on the day the trial collapsed to inform management Mr England's actions led to that happening.

Judge Hopkins went on to say he would be writing to Mr England's political allies in the hope they would take "appropriate action".

Lord Davies has said "at no time" had any party officials received any correspondence in relation to the matter.

Mr Evans and Lord Davies have also been asked to comment.