Cyril Smith: MP's friend made 'veiled threats' to police

Sir Cyril Smith
Image caption Smith would have been 'at the mercy of a competent counsel' the detective said

A high-ranking friend of Cyril Smith tried to warn off police investigating claims that he had been sexually abusing boys, a report reveals.

A senior detective investigating the claims against Smith said a magistrate made "veiled threats" to officers.

The detective's 1970 report to the Chief Constable of Lancashire said there was "prima facie" evidence of the MP's guilt.

The Director of Public Prosecution later advised against prosecuting.

The 14-page report by the detective superintendent, which has been redacted, has been seen by the BBC.

It said that Smith would have been "at the mercy of a competent counsel", but also reported that the MP's magistrate "buddy" had warned of "unfortunate repercussions for the police force and the town of Rochdale" should he be prosecuted.

The officer, whose name has been redacted from the report, was investigating allegations of sex abuse made by eight young boys, six of whom who had been at the privately-run Cambridge House care home in Rochdale.

The home closed in 1965, prior to Smith's election as a MP for Rochdale.

Police and Rochdale Council are already investigating allegations that the Liberal MP sexually abused boys at Knowl View residential school.

The residential school for vulnerable boys in Rochdale closed in 1992.

Image copyright Lancashire Constabulary

Smith was interviewed by the detective superintendent, who reported to former chief constable William Palfrey that "it seems impossible to excuse [Smith's] conduct".

"Over a considerable period of time, while sheltering beneath a veneer of responsibility, he has used his unique position to indulge in a series of indecent episodes with young boys towards whom he had a special responsibility," he wrote.

He said Smith was "most unimpressive during my interview with him".

The officer said: "He had difficulty in articulating and even the stock replies he proffered could only be obtained after repeated promptings from his solicitor.

"Were he ever to be placed in the witness box, he would be at the mercy of any competent counsel.

"Prima facie, he appears guilty of numerous offences of indecent assault."

The officer reported that he interviewed the magistrate who told him in his "personal opinion" he "sincerely hoped that this matter is not prosecuted before the court".

"In my opinion, as a Justice of the Peace, it is not court-worthy," he told the officer.

"The prosecution can do no good at all and the backlash will have unfortunate repercussions for the police force and the town of Rochdale."

He also told the officer it was "no secret" that he and Smith "are buddies, and not only politically".

The name of the magistrate has been redacted from the report seen by the BBC.

Image copyright Lancashire Constabulary

The police officer commented: "Those observations were recorded at the time in Detective Chief Inspector _______'s official duty diary.

"The veiled threats and innuendos contained therein reflect ______ general attitude to this enquiry".

Evidence 'suspect'

Two years ago the Crown Prosecution Service released documents from Sir Norman Skelhorn, Director of Public Prosecutions in 1970.

He concluded: "I have considered your file and I observe that eight young men, whose ages range from 18 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."

Sir Norman said that any charges of indecent assault founded on their allegations would be "somewhat stale", and, in his view, "completely without corroboration".

He also said the characters of some of the 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 his prosecution," he concluded.

Smith's family said he always denied such accusations and said they were saddened that allegations were now being made when he could no longer defend himself.

The Smith family said it would continue to co-operate with any further investigations.

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