Paedophile ring protected Sir Cyril Smith, MP claims

Sir Cyril Smith

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Liberal MP Sir Cyril Smith was part of a high-level paedophile ring operating at Westminster in the 1970s, a Labour MP has claimed.

Simon Danczuk alleges in a new book Sir Cyril used his influence to escape prosecution for sexually abusing boys.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the MP was part of an "informal" network of sex abusers.

And he claimed police were pressured by the authorities to drop investigations into his activities.

"Had he been prosecuted, then the house of cards would have fallen, in terms of that paedophile network, and it could have brought the government down," the Labour MP told Today.

He also claimed child abuse allegations against Sir Cyril were widely known at the time and were even raised in public, at a Liberal party conference.

'Used local power'

Sir Cyril's family have said they are "saddened" by Mr Danczuk's allegations "made so long after Sir Cyril Smith's death and at a time he is no longer able to defend himself".

"Sir Cyril always denied accusations made against him while he was living," they added in a statement issued when extracts from Mr Danczuk's book were serialised in the Daily Mail.

Mr Danczuk, MP for Sir Cyril's former constituency Rochdale, alleges police received at least 144 complaints about the late Liberal MP but MI5 and Special Branch put pressure on police officers to drop investigations into the alleged abuse.

"When he was initially arrested, he used the local power that he had, in the 60s, to be able to convince people that he shouldn't be prosecuted," he told the Today programme.

"But once he became a member of Parliament in 1972, I think he joined an, obviously informal, network of paedophiles that existed in and around Westminster."

Asked how he could say that with certainty, Mr Danczuk said Sir Cyril had been identified as attending Elm Guest House in south-west London, adding: "[This is] where it is alleged other significant paedophiles attended."

Children's home

The MP later told the BBC News channel: "We are moving to a stage where we require a public inquiry, where people can be called before that inquiry to give evidence on oath.

"Cyril was part of this network, but there was a much broader cover-up and what we now need is to start taking that cover up apart and finding out exactly who was in there, and who knew what at the time.

"I think it would be quite revealing."

In 2012, the Metropolitan Police launched an investigation into allegations of sexual abuse by politicians in the late 1970s and 1980s, after Labour MP Tom Watson raised concerns in the House of Commons about a "powerful paedophile network linked to Parliament and No 10".

The investigation, Operation Fernbridge, is centred on the former Elm Guest House in Barnes, the scene of alleged parties involving MPs and other members of the establishment.

The Metropolitan Police has confirmed Sir Cyril was among those who visited the premises.

The Crown Prosecution Service has said he should have been prosecuted for 1960s abuse in Rochdale. Sir Cyril died in 2010 aged 82.

It was alleged he raped boys at the Knowl View residential school and abused boys at Cambridge House Children's Home, a privately-run care home in Rochdale, which closed in 1965.

He had a long association with Knowl View, where he was on the management board when he was a councillor.

Sir Cyril was originally a Labour councillor in Rochdale and later a Liberal then Liberal Democrat MP for the town from 1972 to 1992.

The Daily Mail has repeatedly pressed senior Liberal Democrats over what they knew about his alleged activities.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, the current Lib Dem leader, said that when all Lib Dem MPs and peers were asked two years ago whether they had heard of the abuse claims against Sir Cyril "no-one said they did".

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