A former minister has been cleared of breaching ministerial code over allegations he knew a Conservative Party candidate had collapsed a rape trial.
Tory MP Alun Cairns stood down as Welsh secretary last month over his links to Ross England, who used to work as his aide.
A Cabinet Office report found it ‘more likely than not’ that Mr Cairns was told of the candidates role in the court case and said evidence did not point towards a breach of the rules.
Mr England stood as a witness at the rape trial of his friend James Hackett in April 2018.
He told the court he had had a casual sexual relationship with the complainant, which she denied, despite the judge making it clear that evidence of her sexual history was inadmissible.
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 at a retrial.
Mr England was chosen in December last year as a candidate for the 2021 Welsh assembly election, although he has since been suspended as a candidate.
Mr Cairns claimed he did not know about Mr England’s role until it appeared in the news.
But he was was accused of ‘brazenly lying’ after BBC Wales claimed to find a leaked email suggesting he was made aware of allegations in August last year.
He was interviewed as part of an investigation by independent ministerial adviser Sir Alex Allan and said he knew of the collapse of the trial but only learned details when they became public.
Sir Allan said the email on August 2 demonstrated how Mr Cairns ‘worked closely with his special adviser, who had conversations with England’, who was ‘more likely than not’ to have known about his role.
He added: ‘I accept that Mr Cairns’ special adviser would not necessarily have known the judge’s actual remarks.’
Sir Allan raised questions over whether it the MP for Vale of Glamorgan could have been told about the collapse of the trial without asking the reasons why, especially knowing that Mr England was a witness.
He added: ‘Mr Cairns asserted that he was not a lawyer and did not then understood the difference between an adjournment, a delay and a collapse. It seems to me that these terms are self-evident.’
He said the MP’s evidence was that he ‘would have drawn from the content of the conversation with a member of his staff that there had been difficulties with the trial’ but that the ‘member of staff had not told him that Mr England had had anything to do with it’.
Concluding, he wrote: ‘I find it unlikely that Mr Cairns would not have been told something about Mr England’s role when he was told about the collapse.
‘But all those involved state that they had not informed Mr Cairns of Mr England’s role, and there is no direct evidence to contradict this.
‘On that basis, I do not find that the evidence upholds the allegations of a breach of the ministerial code.’
Mr Cairns is believed to have been the first Cabinet minister in modern times to have left his post during a general election campaign.
He was replaced as Welsh secretary by Simon Hart earlier this week.