Cyril Smith: Police admit he DID abuse boys days and should have been charged

Police admit Cyril Smith DID abuse boys: Days after Mail expose (and 40 years late) they concede MP should have been charged
Sir Cyril allegedly sexually and physically abused teenage boys under the guise of medical examinations or punishment for misbehaviour
Police say former Liberal MP would be prosecuted if accused todaySmith was secretary of boys' hostel where he was accused of abusing vulnerable youngsters by spanking and touching them from the 1970s

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UPDATED:

07:21 GMT, 28 November 2012


Former Liberal MP Sir Cyril Smith sexually and physically abused young boys in the 1960s, police admitted today

Former Liberal MP Sir Cyril Smith sexually and physically abused young boys in the 1960s, police admitted today

After 40 years, police and lawyers have agreed that Sir Cyril Smith physically and sexually abused teenage boys and should have been prosecuted.

The revelation comes just days after a Daily Mail investigation into claims the politician inflicted humiliating punishments on teenage boys at a hostel in the 1960s.

His victims detailed how he would spank their naked bottoms and order them to strip for ‘degrading’ and unnecessary medicals.

The claims were later investigated by police and files passed to lawyers but no case was brought against the former MP, who died two years ago aged 82.

Now, ten days after the Daily Mail asked a series of questions about the handling of the allegations by the then Director of Public Prosecutions, the Crown Prosecution Service has finally admitted the high-profile politician should have been prosecuted.

The CPS said Smith – MP for Rochdale from 1972 to 1992, first as a Liberal, later as a Liberal Democrat – only avoided that prosecution because sex abuse cases were dealt with differently 40 years ago.

The admission will bring some relief to many of his abuse victims who made repeated allegations. Last night Barry Fitton, one of Smith‘s victims, said: ‘He’s got to be stripped of his knighthood and his MBE. And I want an apology from all those who said I was lying.’

Another victim, Alan Neal, who reported being hit by Smith in the 1960s, said: ‘For 48 years, people have chosen to say we were telling lies when we were telling the truth. Sadly some of them are no longer alive. It’s still extremely raw and I’m a little bit bitter.’

Mr Neal, a councillor for the Community First party in Rossendale, Lancashire, said he was hit by Smith aged 11 while at a hostel for boys in 1964. He said he reported the abuse to police when he left in 1968 but was told Smith was an ‘important, powerful man’ and no action was taken.

Both Greater Manchester Police (GMP) and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said if Smith, right, had been accused today he would be charged and prosecuted

Both Greater Manchester Police (GMP) and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said if Smith, right, had been accused today he would be charged and prosecuted

He added: ‘People who were supposed
to protect vulnerable young people failed to do so. Instead they
protected Smith. I know some would say it’s a different world today but
it’s no different.’

Smith, pictured, who died in 2010, served as a politician for 20 years before retiring

Smith, pictured, who died in 2010, served as a politician for 20 years before retiring

The CPS and Greater Manchester Police
yesterday revealed that in March 1970, a file was submitted to the then
Director of Public Prosecutions following an investigation in 1969 by
Lancashire Police.

It detailed allegations from eight boys at Cambridge
House Hostel about indecent assaults committed by Smith between 1961 and
1966.

However the evidential threshold for
sex abuse cases in 1970 was much higher than it is today and the
Director of Public Prosecutions, Norman Skelhorn, advised against
prosecution.

In 1997 a man rang a helpline saying
he was abused by Smith at Cambridge House between 1965 and 1968. This
allegation was passed to Greater Manchester Police, who submitted a file
of evidence, which also included the 1970 allegations, to the CPS in
1998. Lawyers again decided not to prosecute.

Nazir Afzal, Chief Crown Prosecutor
for CPS North West, said: ‘The reviewing lawyer concluded there was
sufficient evidence to charge, but that a prosecution should not proceed
because: Cyril Smith had been told he would not be charged for these
alleged offences 28 years previously. The law and procedures followed by
prosecutors in 1998 made clear that long-standing charging decisions
could only be reversed in very limited circumstances, namely new
evidence coming to light.

‘This rule applied to all cases and the evidence submitted by police against Smith in 1998 was the same as in 1970.’

In 1999, a second file was sent to
the CPS by GMP following two further complaints about Smith’s actions
between 1962 and 1965. Again, due to no likelihood of conviction no
further action was recommended.

Last night GMP Assistant Chief
Constable Steve Heywood said: ‘Having reviewed those decisions, we
believe that if the same evidence was presented to the CPS today there
would have been a very realistic prospect Smith would have been charged
with a number of indecent assaults.

‘Although, Smith cannot be charged or
convicted posthumously, from the overwhelming evidence we have it is
right and proper we should publicly recognise that young boys were
sexually and physically abused and we will offer them as much support as
they need should they wish to speak to us.’

Since the Mail launched its inquiry, two people have come forward to report abuse by Smith, and GMP is investigating.

Mr Afzal said: ‘The decision made by the CPS in 1970 would not be made today.’

Scandal: A plaque erected in Smith's honour in Rochdale was removed in the wake of the allegations due to fears over vandalism

Scandal: A plaque erected in Smith's honour in Rochdale was removed in the wake of the allegations due to fears over vandalism

DPP WHO LET HIM OFF THE HOOK

The allegations were explosive: a high-profile Liberal MP had abused up to eight boys living in a hostel in his constituency.

The file ran to 80 pages of evidence after an investigation Lancashire Police claim was thorough and enquiring.

But in 1970 the Director of Public Prosecutions, Sir Norman Skelhorn, wrote back saying he would not advise prosecution.

The only documentation of the decision-making is a one-page letter to the Chief Constable of Lancashire Constabulary.

It is dated March 19, 1970, and reads: ‘I have considered your file and I observe that eight young men, whose ages range from 19 to 24 years, allege that between 1961 and 1966 Smith subjected them to various forms of indecency and I also observe that Smith denies their allegations.

‘Any charges of indecent assault founded on these allegations, as well as being somewhat stale, would be, in my view, completely without corroboration.

‘Further, the characters of some of these young men would be likely to render their evidence suspect.

‘In the circumstances, I do not consider that if proceedings for indecent assault were to be taken against Smith, there would be a reasonable prospect of a conviction.

‘I do not, therefore, advise this prosecution.’