A UK Cabinet minister who denied knowing about the role of a Tory candidate for the Welsh Assembly in “sabotaging” a rape trial was emailed about it last year, according to the BBC.

Ross England, a former staff member of Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns, allegedly caused the April 2018 trial to be stopped when he referred to the female victim's previous sexual history while giving evidence in court.

The allegation relates to the April 2018 trial of England's friend, James Hackett, who was later found guilty of rape after proceedings were restarted.

Cairns told BBC Wales he only became aware of England's role in the trial's collapse when the story broke last week, adding that he had not received any correspondence relating to the case.

But an email, seen by BBC Wales and sent to Cairns in August 2018, discusses his former aide's role in the trial’s collapse.

Sent on August 2 by Geraint Evans, Cairns’ special adviser, it reads: "I have spoken to Ross and he is confident no action will be taken by the court." The email was also copied to Richard Minshull, director of the Welsh Conservatives.

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

Christina Rees MP, shadow secretary of state for Wales, accused Cairns of "brazenly lying" about his knowledge of the allegation and called on him to resign.

She said: "There are no two ways about this – Alun Cairns has been caught brazenly lying about how much he knew of Ross England's appalling behaviour at a rape trial.

"The Secretary of State, special advisers and senior Welsh Tory officials knew what had happened. They chose to select Ross England anyway - and to mislead and obfuscate when found out.

"The decision is an error of judgment - the cover-up is unforgivable. Alun Cairns should go, as Secretary of State and as a candidate."

Plaid Cymru MP Liz Saville-Roberts also called for Cairns to resign as Welsh Secretary and withdraw as a General Election candidate after accusing him of a cover-up.

She said: "The revelation that Alun Cairns knew about Ross England's role in this case before endorsing him as a candidate shows that Mr Cairns is unfit to hold public office.

"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 judgment, dishonesty and a lack of leadership."

The judge in the collapsed case, Stephen Hopkins QC, said England had "single-handedly" and "deliberately" sabotaged the trial at Cardiff Crown Court, after ignoring his instructions not to refer to the woman's sexual history.

England said he had given an "honest answer".

Eight months later, he was selected as the Welsh Conservative's candidate for the Vale of Glamorgan for the 2021 Welsh Assembly election.

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

But on Wednesday night, the Welsh Conservatives announced England had been suspended from the party.

Cairns has been asked to comment.

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."

At the initial trial of Hackett, 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 England: "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.