Welsh secretary of state quits amid criticisms over failed rape trial

Welsh Secretary of State Alun Cairns announced his resignation Wednesday amid claims he lied about his knowledge about a former staffer who’s accused of sabotaging a rape trial last year.

Welsh Secretary of State Alun Cairns leaves the Cabinet Office in London on September 12. File Photo by Andy Rain

Cairns has been criticized for saying he didn’t know one of his advisers, Ross England, played a role in the failed trial until it was reported in the press last week. The report included what it said was a leaked email that indicated Cairns knew of England’s efforts as early as last summer.

England gave inadmissible testimony at the April 2018 trial that remarked on the victim’s sexual history, after he had been warned by the court not to speak on the issue. The defendant, England acquaintance James Hackett, was ultimately convicted in a second trial.

“This is a very sensitive matter, and in light of continued speculation, I write to tender my resignation as secretary of state for Wales,” Cairns wrote Wednesday in a letter to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

“I will cooperate in full with the investigation under the Ministerial Code which now will take place and I am confident I will be cleared of any breach or wrong doing.”

Conservative Party members had defended Cairns, insisting he had no prior knowledge of England’s role in the case.

At trial, the judge had reacted strongly to England giving prohibited testimony.

“Why did you say that? Are you completely stupid?” he said. “You have managed single-handed, and I have no doubt it was deliberate on your part, to sabotage this trial.”

“I shall be writing personal letters to people who are politically close to you and I hope they take appropriate action,” the judge added, before telling England, “Get out of my court.”

The departure of Cairns, one of Johnson’s cabinet ministers, comes about a month before Britain’s Dec. 12 legislative elections. Parliament dissolved early Wednesday to formally begin the campaign. Conservatives are hoping for significant gains in the vote to strengthen their parliamentary ranks.

Labor Party Shadow Secretary Christina Rees criticized Cairns for his response to the scandal, saying England’s behavior at trial was “appalling” and inflicted “unimaginable trauma” for the victim.

ByClyde Hughes