Rape accused Samuel Armstrong 'was like son to MP'

Image source, PA
Image caption,
Samuel Armstrong was "in a different league", his boss told jurors

An MP whose chief of staff is on trial accused of raping a woman at Westminster has said he and the 24-year-old were "like father and son".

Samuel Armstrong is accused of attacking a woman in the office of his boss, South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay.

The aide, from Danbury, Essex, denies two charges of rape and two of sexual assault on 14 October 2016.

Mr Mackinlay told Southwark Crown Court that because of the age difference he became almost like his father.

The woman, a parliamentary worker in her 20s, has said Mr Armstrong raped her twice in the office on the ground floor of Westminster's Norman Shaw building.

'Nice young man'

Jurors have been told the alleged attack happened in the early hours after she fell asleep following a night drinking in the Houses of Parliament.

Giving evidence, Mr Mackinlay said he was not in Parliament that night.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
It is alleged the attack happened in the offices of South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay

Describing his relationship with Mr Armstrong, he said he was not sure whether the younger man "hero-worshipped" him, but said they had a close relationship.

"Given the age difference, I became like - it was almost like father and son, I suppose."

He told jurors they would go for a beer, or out for drinks and dinner with his wife, Kati, when they were working in the MP's Kent constituency office.

The MP said his wife would tell Mr Armstrong she was going to find one of her nieces for him to marry, because he was "too nice a young man to be single".

Mr Mackinlay said Mr Armstrong, who had been a student Conservative Party activist, came recommended by others in the party.

Mr Armstrong, of Copt Hill, joined the MP's staff after he was elected in May 2015, and had become his chief of staff in April 2016.

The MP agreed with defence counsel Sarah Forshaw QC that Mr Armstrong was a hardworking, trustworthy employee who did not take a single day of holiday.

The court heard from Richard Holden, who has been special adviser to a defence secretary and to the leader of the House of Lords.

He joined Mr Armstrong and the woman in a bar on the night of 13 October, before their group of four went to the leader's office in the Lords to drink wine.

The pair were "friendly and chatting and sat quite close to each other", he said.

He described them as laughing, joking and very relaxed.

Mr Holden described Mr Armstrong as charming and funny and introverted rather than socially awkward.

"He's always been very mild-mannered," he said. "He's quite a slight person. I'm not massive, but he's significantly smaller than me".

The trial continues.

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