The late Liberal MP Cyril Smith sexually abused boys, the police said after prosecutors said he should have been charged with a string of indecent assaults in the late 1960s.
In the latest fallout from the Jimmy Savile scandal, Greater Manchester Police said that boys "were victims of physical and sexual abuse" by the obese ex-Rochdale MP.
In a statement, Greater Manchester Police said: “It has taken some time for the exact details to be confirmed due to the passage of time since the original allegations were made in the late 1960s.
The force is now publicly acknowledging that young boys were victims of physical and sexual abuse committed by Smith.”
Smith, one of the best-known politicians of the 1970s and 1980s, escaped prosecution in 1970 for multiple indecent assaults on teenaged boys despite matching allegations against from eight men, according to prosecution filed released by the Crown Prosecution Service.
Questions have been asked about why Smith escaped justice, amid reports that the security services sized the evidence against him in the 1970s at a time when he was one of a handful of Liberal MPs who held the balance of power at Westminster.
In a statement, Nazir Afzal, Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS North West, indicated that had Smith been alive now, he would have been prosecuted.
Mr Afzal’s statement showed that allegations had been made against Smith in 1970 and 1998 and 1999.
In 1970, eight men aged from 19 to 24 claimed that, between 1961 and 1966, Smith indecently assaulted them while were either living at Cambridge House Children’s Home in Rochdale (with which he was associated), or were dependent on Smith for either employment, financial support or some sort of guardianship.
The prosecutor who assessed the case in 1970 said the allegations might not be believed because Smith denied them and because of the complainants “characters”.
He wrote: “Any charges of indecent assault founded on these allegations, as well as being somewhat stale, would be, in my view, completely without corroboration. Further, the characters of some of these 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.”
In 1998, amid the police inquiry into child abuse in North Wales, a man rang a careline set up in North Wales to allege that he was abused by Cyril Smith at Cambridge House Children’s Home in Rochdale between 1965 and 1968.
In 1998, the allegation was passed to Greater Manchester Police, who submitted a file of evidence, which also included the 1970 documentation, to the CPS in May 1998. But the CPS again decided not to prosecute on the grounds that Smith, then still alive, had been told that he would not be charged for these alleged offences 28 years previously.
Two further complainants came forward in 1999, but again the CPD decided against a prosecution, partly on the grounds of insufficient evidence.
Smith died in 2010 aged 82, having served as an MP between 1972 and 1992.
Mr Afzal said: “Any victims who are considering coming forward should not be dissuaded by the decisions of the past…The decision made in 1970 would not be made by the CPS today.”
Assistant Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, Steve Heywood, said: "We are now in a position to say that on three separate occasions, files were passed to first the DPP and then the CPS containing details of abuse committed by Smith, but on each occasion no prosecution was pursued.
"Having now reviewed those decisions, we believe that if the same evidence was presented to the CPS today there would have been a very realistic prospect that Smith would have been charged with a number of indecent assaults, and that the case would have been brought to trial.”
He went on: "Clearly that is a bold statement to make but it is absolutely important for those victims who were abused by Smith that we publicly acknowledge the suffering they endured.
“Although, Smith cannot be charged or convicted posthumously, from the overwhelming evidence we have it is right and proper we should publicly recognise that young boys were sexually and physically abused and we will offer them as much support as they need should they wish to speak to us."