Lib Dems face 'questions' over Cyril Smith abuse claims

Sir Cyril Smith The Crown Prosecution Service has said Sir Cyril should have been prosecuted

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Liberal Democrat president Tim Farron says his party needs to answer "serious questions" about who knew that its former MP, Sir Cyril Smith, faced allegations of sexual assault.

Police are investigating allegations that the former MP for Rochdale, who died in 2010 aged 82, sexually abused boys at homes and hostels in the town.

Mr Farron said the police inquiry was the best way to deal with the claims.

The Crown Prosecution Service has said Sir Cyril should have been prosecuted.

Legal action

It was alleged he raped boys at Knowl View residential school, which closed in 1992, and abused boys at the privately run Cambridge House children's care home, 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.

Mr Farron said: "The party absolutely, as the Labour Party must also... and indeed Rochdale civic society as a whole need to answer serious questions as to who knew what and when."

Last year, Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg described the allegations against Sir Cyril as shocking and appalling, and said they must be investigated "to the bitter end".

Lawyers for those who have made allegations of abuse said they were considering taking legal action against the Lib Dems.

New book

Sir Cyril's family have said he always denied such accusations made against him when he was alive and they were saddened that allegations were now being made when he could no longer defend himself.

Allegations against Sir Cyril have been made in a new book by the current Labour MP for Rochdale, Simon Danczuk.

He claimed Sir Cyril used his position of power to sexually abuse young boys and then escape prosecution.

Mr Danczuk said previously he asked police to re-examine the case after "a number of victims came to see me and raise concerns".

Mr Danczuk claimed in 2012 there was "little doubt" that Sir Cyril raped some of his victims.

Speaking to BBC News on Saturday, Mr Danczuk said: "This isn't about party politics - it doesn't matter whether Cyril Smith belonged to any particular party."

He added: "We need to get to the bottom of why and how he managed to get away with that and who was involved in the wider cover-up."

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

Allegations about Sir Cyril's conduct were first published in 1979.

An independent review into the way Knowl View was run is due to report to Rochdale Council next month.

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