The Welsh Secretary is facing calls to resign following allegations about his handling of the case involving a Conservative Assembly candidate blamed by a judge for “sabotaging” a rape trial.
Ross England was suspended as a candidate for the 2021 Assembly election after it emerged that he was criticised by a judge at Cardiff Crown Court for his evidence at a trial in which someone he knew was accused of rape.
According to an investigation by BBC Wales, Mr Cairns was told about events in court in an email sent before Ross England was chosen as a candidate.
England was praised by his former boss, Alun Cairns, in a press release welcoming his selection and describing the pair as “friends and colleagues”.
Mr Cairns has not yet commented but the prime minister’s official spokesman says the Prime Minister has confidence in Alun Cairns.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman says the Prime Minister has confidence in Alun Cairns but won’t answer detailed questions about the case, saying that they’re matters for the Conservative party.
— Adrian Masters (@adrianmasters84) November 5, 2019
There may be little public comment from the party but privately some Welsh Conservatives are deeply angry about the way the case has been handled.
One told me that it raises serious questions about the way the party is run in Wales.
Another feared that the nature of the revelations ‘could bring down the whole Conservative campaign in Wales’ and said Mr Cairns should ‘put the party and country before his own interests.’
A third cast doubt on the nature of the investigation mentioned, suspecting it would be a means of putting the matter ‘on the back burner until it is out of the public eye.’
Political opponents say this should be a resigning matter.
On Wednesday last week, the Chairman of the Welsh Conservatives, Lord Davies of Gower, said: “Ross England has been suspended pending this matter being presented to the candidates committee.”
Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader, Liz Saville Roberts, said that Mr Cairns appeared to have been complicit in the attempted cover up of Mr England’s actions.
During the trial in April 2018, Judge Stephen Hopkins QC told Mr England: “You have managed, singlehandedly, and I have no doubt it was deliberate on your part, to sabotage this trial”.
Mr England was a witness at the trial of Hackett, 31, from Kingston upon Thames, for rape in April last year.
Barristers for both the prosecution and defence had agreed there could be no mention of the sexual history of the victim, then aged 21.
Within minutes of taking his oath at the trial in April Mr England told the jury he had previously had a relationship with the victim.
In front of the jury Judge Hopkins asked Mr England why he made the comments about past relations with the victim. “Why did you say that? Are you completely stupid?” he said. Mr England responded: “I apologise.”
When asked why he said it Mr England said he was answering the question.
The judge responded: “No it wasn’t. It was quite clear what the question was.”
The judge said he did not believe the trial could go ahead, something described by prosecutor Ms Lewis as “extremely regrettable”.
Despite the judge’s promise to write letters to call for “appropriate action” to be taken Mr England was selected as an Assembly candidate that December.
In response 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.”