A former justice minister has reiterated his defence of former Conservative MP Imran Ahmad Khan by arguing the disgraced politician did not get a “fair trial”.
MP for Reigate Crispin Blunt removed a post from his website and Twitter feed last month in which he had claimed Mr Khan was the victim of a “dreadful miscarriage of justice”.
The former Wakefield MP was found guilty of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy in 2008.
Previously, Mr Blunt had retracted his initial statement and said: “I do not condone any form of abuse and I strongly believe in the independence and integrity of the justice system.”
He also offered his resignation as chairman of an all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on LGBT issues following protests from MPs over his comments.
But in a new interview with BBC One’s Politics South East programme, he has stood by his earlier defence of Mr Khan, who was thrown out of the Conservative Party following the verdict and later resigned.
Reflecting on his initial statement, Mr Blunt said: “I didn’t know Imran – I got to know him in the first few weeks of 2019 and 2020 and thoroughly enjoyed his company and could well see why he’d be a terrific parliamentarian with an enormous amount to contribute.
“And so this issue, then, arising for me is …his conviction. And I don’t want to …I saw what happened (at the trial). I remain totally convinced.”
‘Victims of sexual assault have felt immensely strongly about my statement’
Mr Blunt admitted he did not attend the whole trial and added: “I know what decisions were made within the trial, which meant that, in my judgment, he did not get a fair trial or anything remotely like that.”
When asked whether he still believes that now, he said: “Yes, I do.”
Mr Blunt also said he did not attend the witness evidence in court.
He was then asked if he therefore thought he knew more than the jury.
He replied: “Yes inevitably, because quite a lot of the trial was conducted without the jury being present.”
He added that it remains his judgment that he had seen “a serious miscarriage of justice”.
Mr Blunt said: “Of course, the justice process is not complete, because …Imran has the opportunity to appeal the conviction.
“And I remain very confident that a justice system worthy of the name will restore his good name.
“The victims …who have been victims of sexual assault will obviously have felt immensely strongly about the nature of my statement. But it is perhaps (in) the nature of some of my politics …to seek to make the case …for people whom others won’t.”
Earlier this month, Mr Blunt announced he would stand down at the next election.
A jury at Southwark Crown Court took about five hours to decide Mr Khan, 48, was guilty of sexually assaulting a teenage boy.
Mr Khan is formally appealing against the conviction.
He is due to be sentenced on 23 May.