UK Politics

Cyril Smith's family welcomes inquiry into abuse claims

Sir Cyril Smith Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Crown Prosecution Service has said Sir Cyril should have been prosecuted

Sir Cyril Smith's family has said it would welcome an independent inquiry into allegations the former Liberal Democrat MP sexually abused boys.

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

His family said many of the claims were "bizarre and difficult to believe".

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.

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

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 the school as he was on the management board when he was a councillor.

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

In a statement, his family said: "The person they are describing is not the person known to his family, friends, colleagues and constituents.

"Sir Cyril always denied the allegations made against him in the 1960s and those investigated by the police in subsequent years.

"We continue to be saddened that Sir Cyril is unable to defend himself against such allegations."

The family said: "We find many of the claims bizarre and difficult to believe, an independent inquiry would determine their truth or otherwise."

They added they would help the police and authorities with their investigations.

Legal action

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

Image caption Rochdale MP Simon Danczuk has written a book on the claims

Liberal Democrat president Tim Farron said his party needed to answer "serious questions" about who knew that its former MP faced allegations of sexual assault.

"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," he said.

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.

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

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

In 2012 he claimed 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."

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

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