Cyril Smith abuse case: 'Justice has been cheated'

Sir Cyril Smith
Image caption The Liberal politician was investigated over allegations of sex abuse in the 1970s and 1990s

The failure to charge Sir Cyril Smith with sex abuse means "justice has been cheated", a solicitor representing one of his alleged victims has said.

On Tuesday, Greater Manchester Police (GMP) acknowledged Smith was a sex abuser of boys in the late 1960s.

Twelve men have accused the late Liberal Democrat MP for Rochdale, who died in 2010, of abusing them at a hostel and a school in the 1960s.

Lawyer Alan Collins said they had been vindicated "40 or 50 years too late".

The Labour leader of Rochdale Council, Colin Lambert, said he had informed police about claims made against Sir Cyril in 1999 and was examining whether the council could have done more to support those claims at the time.

Mr Lambert said he had reported claims of Sir Cyril being involved in the abuse of children at a residential school to GMP in 1999, while serving as a councillor.

He said that "where the council has a liability, solicitors will talk and seek to move forward".

The abuse by Sir Cyril was said to have taken place at Cambridge House Children's Home, a privately-run care home which closed in 1965, and the council-run Knowl View residential school, which shut in 1992.

'Very tragic'

Mr Collins, of Pannone law firm, said one of the 12 men is to sue Rochdale Council over the alleged abuse.

A GMP spokesman said eight victims originally came forward in the 1960s, with two more coming forward in 1999 and a further two making claims following recent media coverage.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has admitted Sir Cyril, who was a Labour councillor in the 1950s and 60s, should have been charged with sex crimes more than 40 years ago.

Although he faced no action following inquiries in 1970 and the 1990s, the CPS said procedural changes meant a prosecution would have been pursued today.

Mr Collins, a partner at the Pannone law firm, said: "Whilst the news is very welcome, it's also very tragic because justice has been cheated.

"These victims have lived with the consequences of what happened to them for decades.

"They seek acceptance by those in authority that they were abused because this allows them to draw a line in the sand and move on."

Rochdale's current MP Simon Danczuk told the BBC's Today programme: "There is no doubt that Cyril Smith seriously sexually abused young boys: why the CPS didn't prosecute more recently is puzzling.

"There are questions to be asked about why the prosecutions didn't take place, not just in the 60s, but in the 80s and the early 90s," the Labour MP said.

In a statement, Sir Cyril's family said they were "deeply saddened and concerned" about the allegations "made so long after Sir Cyril's death and at a time when he is no longer able to defend himself".

GMP has now assumed overall command of the investigation after working alongside Lancashire Police.

The Lancashire force's investigation centred on offences allegedly committed between 1961 and 1965 at Cambridge House.

The home opened in February 1962 after being set up by the Rochdale Hostel for Boys Association, a voluntary group of which Sir Cyril was secretary.

It had room for 20 boys but closed at the end of 1965, due to a lack of funds.

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