Top politician robustly rejected claims of sexual abuse of boys in care, police files show
By Nick Fielding | 16 July 2013
Former Liberal MP Sir Cyril Smith made a robust denial to detectives that he sexually abused boys at a children’s home, Exaro can reveal.
He began by telling investigating officers: “I am not prepared to make a statement at this stage as to the allegations made by the eight boys.”
But he then told detectives: “I am, however, prepared to say this. I was active in the running and administration of the hostel.”
“The object was to help the under-privileged and deprived boys of over school leaving age, many of whom had social, domestic, health and other problems, and to get them settled continuous and productive employment. In respect of some of the boys, we were faced with difficult problems of discipline arising from general misconduct, [redacted] and work shyness.”
Smith was speaking to detectives in February 1970 after Lancashire Police launched the investigation the previous year.
Several young men alleged that Smith had administered corporal punishment and fondled them while they were residents at Cambridge House. Smith was then a councillor and due to stand for election as an MP in June 1970.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) disclosed to Exaro under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) the police document that records Smith’s comments. Some parts are redacted.
A previous FOIA disclosure revealed that Smith tried to browbeat the lead officer by calling in at a police station in January 1970, demanding to know about the accusations.
Smith refused on legal advice to make a formal statement. But he was concerned, he said, that if he were charged it would prevent him from standing as a candidate in the general election. He returned to the station a month later with what appear to be carefully prepared comments.
Detectives record Smith as saying: “I never heard a single complaint as to any conduct of mine being made by any boy or any committee member or anybody else, and I am quite astounded at these present complaints made so long after the alleged events.
“I am in the position to call very many witnesses not only as to my general integrity, which has never heretofore been questioned, but also as to the unfailing help and support that I have always been known to give to my fellow townsfolk in general, and the youth of the town in particular.”
“Personally, I would just like to point out that the mere existence of these allegations, if they become known, may be damaging to my public and private career. But, at the same time, I wish to state most emphatically that I have never behaved in any indecent way towards any of these boys, but have done my best to help them at a difficult stage in their lives.”
Police officers took statements from at least seven boys who had stayed at Cambridge House and at least one other who had never lived there.
According to affidavits given by seven former residents, Smith carried out beatings and medical “examinations”, often in the so-called “Quiet Room”.
The director of public prosecutions decided in 1970 against prosecuting Smith.
The CPS admitted last November that this decision, together with refusals to prosecute Smith in 1998 and 1999, would not have been made on the same basis today.
The evidence is that Smith also abused young boys in the 1980’s and 1990’s at Knowl View special school, where he was the governors’ chairman.
Greater Manchester Police (GMP), which covers Rochdale since a reorganisation in 1974, promised in November that it would re-investigate Smith, who died in 2010.
But Exaro revealed in May that GMP was dropping its investigation into Smith’s sexual abuse of boys.
The disclosure prompted GMP to announce an investigation into three complaints of sexual abuse at Knowl View school dating back to the 1970’s, although none is against Smith specifically.