Alun Cairns row ‘shows why women do not report rape’

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The victim in the collapsed rape trial that led to Alun Cairns’ resignation as Welsh secretary said the case shows why women do not alert police.

Mr Cairns said he did not know about a former aide’s involvement in the collapse of her trial until last week.

But he resigned after BBC Wales obtained an email sent to him discussing the case over a year ago.

The victim has called for Mr Cairns to quit as a general election candidate. Mr Cairns has been asked to comment.

The politician, who still intends to stand for the Conservatives in Vale of Glamorgan, denies any wrongdoing.

The Conservative Party had said Mr Cairns was “completely unaware” until last week of the details of the case, which collapsed in April 2018 when his former aide Ross England, a witness, was accused by the trial judge of deliberate sabotage.

But an email sent on 2 August 2018 shows Mr Cairns received an update regarding Mr England’s situation.

It was sent to Mr Cairns by Geraint Evans, his special adviser, and 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.”

Four months after that email was sent, Mr England was selected to represent the Conservative Party in the Vale of Glamorgan for the 2021 Welsh assembly election.

“It is because of situations like this that women don’t come forward and report rape,” the victim – who cannot be named for legal reasons and who previously worked in Mr Cairns’ constituency office – told BBC Wales.

“I think Alun Cairns did the right thing resigning,” she said. “However, I feel that the way he has handled this does not reflect well on the Conservative Party and raises serious questions as to whether he’s a suitable candidate to be standing in the general election.

“What he did was to minimise my experience as a rape victim.

“He was aware that Ross England had delayed my right to justice and made me go through another trial and still felt that he was a suitable candidate.

“This brings into question his judgment and the party’s judgment.”

Lord Davies of Gower, who has been the chairman of the party in Wales since 2017, said he “deeply regrets” the situation has arisen but added: “There will be an apology if I find out that one should be forthcoming.

“I’m very sorry that this has happened to her. There is nothing I can do about it. It all happened before I became chairman of the party. I deeply regret it and I will deal with it very sympathetically,” he told BBC Radio Wales.

In his resignation letter, Mr Cairns said: “This is a very sensitive matter, and in light of continued speculation, I write to tender my resignation as secretary of state for Wales.

“I will co-operate in full with the investigation under the ministerial code which will now take place and I am confident I will be cleared of any breach or wrong doing.”

In a statement issued last week, Lord Davies said he could “categorically state” that he and Mr Cairns were “completely unaware of the details of the collapse of this trial until they became public this week”.

Following Mr England’s selection to stand as an AM, Mr Cairns endorsed the candidate as a “friend and colleague” with whom “it will be a pleasure to campaign”.

Mr England was suspended from his candidacy and his employment with the Conservative Party last week.

At the rape trial Mr England, giving evidence, made claims he had had a casual sexual relationship with the victim, which she has denied.

The judge Stephen John Hopkins had earlier told the trial evidence of the sexual history of the victim was inadmissible.

He told Mr England: “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.”

The defendant James Hackett, a friend of Mr England’s, was subsequently convicted of rape at a retrial.

Mr Cairns is facing further pressure to resign his candidacy in the upcoming general election from other parties.

On Wednesday, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn questioned the “moral right” of Mr Cairns to stand, while Plaid Cymru’s Liz Saville Roberts said he should do the “honourable thing” and withdraw.

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Jane Dodds said he was “not fit to represent Wales”.

Assembly Tory leader Paul Davies has distanced himself from Mr England, saying he had fallen short of the standards expected of a Conservative candidate.

Shazia Awan-Scully, a former Conservative Party member who ran to be an MP in 2010, said the actions of the party “alienate women”.

“It says everything about the moral state of the party right now that the prime minister thinks it’s OK for Alun Cairns to stand as a candidate I think it’s absolutely disgraceful,” she added.

A spokeswoman for the Welsh Conservatives said the party encouraged women, adding it had “elected some strong female candidates for the forthcoming general election and look forward to selecting even more”.

Other candidates standing in the Vale of Glamorgan include Sally Stephenson, for the Welsh Liberal Democrats, Belinda Loveluck-Edwards for Welsh Labour and Ian Johnson for Plaid Cymru.

The close of nominations is 14 November.

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BBC News – Wales

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