Manchester

Panel to examine Rochdale child sex abuse allegations

Cyril Smith
Image caption Cyril Smith acted as a governor for several schools in Rochdale

The response of public bodies to child sex abuse allegations against former Rochdale MP Cyril Smith is to be examined by a child sex abuse inquiry.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) will scrutinise how he remained in public life.

Lead counsel to the inquiry, Brian Altman QC, said it will adopt the same method it used for claims about late Labour MP Lord Janner.

Accusations about abuse by Smith in Westminster will be covered separately.

The far-reaching inquiry will not require "specific findings" into allegations against the Liberal MP, who died aged 82 in 2010, its counsel said.

He is suspected of sexually abusing children at Knowl View school and Cambridge House Boys' Hostel in Rochdale.

'Target young men'

The two institutions, where children were placed in the care of Rochdale Borough Council, are currently being examined by the IICSA.

Mr Altman, QC for the inquiry, told a preliminary hearing its work would focus on the authorities' responses rather than any offending.

Image caption Cyril Smith is suspected of sexually abusing children at Knowl View school and Cambridge House Boys' Hostel in Rochdale

He said this was partly informed by the "inability of Cyril Smith to respond to those allegations".

He stated the inquiry is interested in the extent to "which a public figure like Cyril Smith may have been able to target young men" who lived at Cambridge House and "how he was able to remain at the centre of public life in Rochdale despite awareness of the part of some of the allegations against him".

The inquiry will consider:

  • Why Smith was never prosecuted
  • Why he was active on committees involving youth activities while an investigation into his behaviour was under way from 1969 to 1970
  • How the local political parties responded to the allegations against him during this time

The Rochdale arm of the inquiry is one of 13 areas of public life being scrutinised for child protection failings, ranging from the Army to the Roman Catholic church.

Smith acted as a governor for several schools in the town, including Knowl View, which shut in 1992.

The Crown Prosecution Service and Greater Manchester Police said in 2012 Smith would have faced prosecution if the allegations had been in the current era.

Public evidence hearings for the investigation begin in October.

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