His name has been hanging around on the fringes of the child abuse row for several weeks, but Sir Cyril Smith has finally become the latest public figure to be hauled into the story, after police were urged to reveal details of investigations into allegations that the former Liberal MP mistreated boys at a hostel in the 1960s.
Rochdale Labour MP Simon Danczuk alleged to the IoS that many people in his town had “turned a blind eye” to child abuse – and claimed that the wilful neglect may have extended to his predecessor Sir Cyril, who died in 2010.
It is a bold move by a politician in a town where Sir Cyril is still widely revered, and ugly allegations about his behaviour are not usually aired in public. His family has always vociferously denied any suggestion that he was involved in any abuse. On a wider level it has only been Private Eye, which was the sole national publication to retail the original claims in 1979, that has returned to them since the Jimmy Savile allegations first arose in September.
Sir Cyril faced accusations during his career that he had abused young boys at Cambridge House hostel, which he had founded in Rochdale in the 1960s. It was reported that Lancashire Police had investigated claims of sexual “punishments” and taken statements from a number of boys, but that their investigations did not result in any prosecution. Critics claim the files on the case were taken by Special Branch and never seen again.
Now Mr Danczuk has insisted that, following recent revelations about the sexual abuse of young girls in the town – and wider investigations into Savile’s behaviour– it is time to “get to the truth” about his predecessor.
Mr Danczuk, who will speak about abuse in Rochdale during a parliamentary debate on Child sexual exploitation tomorrow, told the IoS: “As we have seen from the recent Rochdale grooming trial there has been a willingness to turn a blind eye to child abuse in our town, and I believe this extends to the heart of Rochdale’s political establishment.
“It is well known that Sir Cyril Smith was dogged by accusations of child abuse and I have recently spoken to people in Rochdale who have first-hand knowledge of the serious allegations made against him.
“Because of this I feel it’s absolutely necessary that police files on the alleged abuse of children at Cambridge House boys’ hostel finally see the light of day so we can get to the truth of what happened.”
A spokesman for Lancashire Police last night said the force believed officers had investigated Sir Cyril, but held no records on the case.
He added: “We believe there was an investigation in the late 1960s but as no records are now held it cannot be ascertained whether a file was passed to the Director of Public Prosecutions.
“These historic allegations date back more than 40 years and to a time when Rochdale was within the Lancashire Constabulary area. While we take matters such as this extremely seriously we have not received any further allegations and at this time there is no ongoing investigation in relation to this matter.”