Sir Cyril Smith was a sex abuser of boys in the late 1960s, police say. The Crown Prosecution Service also said the late Liberal Democrat MP for Rochdale should have been charged with the crimes more than 40 years ago.
Greater Manchester Police (GMP) said the boys “were victims of physical and sexual abuse” by the late Rochdale MP.
Despite no charges after inquiries in 1970 and the 1990s, the CPS said procedural changes meant a prosecution would have been pursued today.
n a statement, Sir Cyril’s family said they were “deeply saddened and concerned” by the allegations “made so long after Sir Cyril’s death and at a time when he is no longer able to defend himself”.
‘No prospect of conviction’
Evidence now made public indicates that a file compiled by Lancashire Constabulary in 1970 contained allegations made by eight men that they had been subjected to indecent assaults by Sir Cyril when they were teenagers.
It was handed to the first Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Norman Skelhorn, and contained statements that were very similar in nature from the eight alleged victims, the CPS confirmed.
“If the same evidence was presented to the CPS today there would have been a very realistic prospect Smith would have been charged ”
– ACC Steve Heywood, Greater Manchester Police
However, the only documentation still remaining is a one page letter Mr Skelhorn wrote to the Chief Constable of Lancashire on 19 March 1970 about Sir Cyril, who died in September 2010.
In it, he stated: “I do not consider that if proceedings for indecent assault were to be taken against Smith, there would be a reasonable prospect of conviction.”
Nazir Afzal, chief prosecutor for the CPS in the North West, said this “way of thinking bears little resemblance to how such cases are assessed today”.
“The decision made in 1970 would not be made by the CPS today,” he said.
The decision in 1970, 16 years before the CPS was formed, was made by the office for the Director of Public Prosecutions.
The Lancashire Police investigation centred on offences committed between 1961 and 1965 when the boys were either living at Cambridge House Children’s Home or were “dependent on Cyril Smith for either employment, financial support or some sort of guardianship”, said Mr Afzal.
He confirmed that when the CPS carried out a review of the case in 1998, it was decided no proceedings would be brought against the MP because he had been told in 1970 that he would not be charged, a decision that could only be reversed if new evidence was unearthed.
The original decision not to proceed against the MP, who was a Labour councillor in the 1950s and 60s, was down to the fact there was no independent corroboration of the alleged victims’ evidence, the CPS said.
“[But] victims of historical sexual abuse are entitled to justice, and prosecutions that would not have been attempted in the past are now brought successfully,” the CPS said…