Sex abuse at Knowl View school – where MP was governor – revealed in official papers
By Nick Fielding | 11 September 2013
Secret documents reveal a shocking catalogue of child abuse at a special school where former Liberal MP Sir Cyril Smith was a governor.
Exaro has unearthed a confidential cache of official documents that detail widespread sexual and physical abuse of boys at Knowl View special school since it opened in 1969. For many years, Smith was a governor of the school.
Police are already investigating historical allegations of child abuse at the school.
The astonishing files shed more light on the paedophile past of the late MP for Rochdale, Lancashire.
The disclosures will add to pressure on leading figures in what was then the Liberal party. They come just as the party’s successors in the Liberal Democrats prepare for their annual conference in Glasgow this weekend.
Political allies of Smith – along with police, prosecutors and the Security Service, MI5 – face accusations of covering up for the “paedophile MP” over many years.
But the ghost of Cyril Smith, who died in 2010, threatens to overshadow the Liberal Democrats’ conference this year.
On Thursday, Channel 4 is due to broadcast a Dispatches entitled, “The Paedophile MP: how Cyril Smith got away with it.”
The latest revelations from Exaro follow our disclosure in May that police were dropping their investigation into Cyril Smith’s sexual abuse of boys.
Greater Manchester Police (GMP) previously promised to investigate after the Crown Prosecution Service admitted in November 2012 that past decisions against prosecuting Smith would not be made today on the same evidence.
GMP, which has covered Rochdale since a reorganisation in 1974, acknowledged in a statement last November that boys were victims of physical and sexual abuse by Smith.
The evidence is that Smith abused boys in Rochdale, in the 1960’s at Cambridge House hostel, the privately-run care home that he helped establish, and in the 1980’s and 1990’s at Knowl View, a residential school for boys with learning difficulties and behavioural problems. Smith, then a councillor and chairman of Rochdale’s education committee, also helped to found the school.
Exaro’s disclosure four months ago that GMP was dropping the Smith case prompted the police force to announce an investigation into three complaints of sexual abuse at Knowl View dating back to the 1970’s, although none is against Smith specifically. Police are investigating up to 10 former members of staff at Knowl View.
Police investigated the school previously. In 2002, one former teacher, David Higgins, was convicted of abusing two boys at the school in 1971. Police said at the time that there was insufficient evidence to charge anyone else.
At least one former resident has told police since the new investigation began that Smith sexually assaulted him on the school premises. And former residents say that they were abused by others at the school.
The cache of confidential documents obtained by Exaro includes:
- a report by an AIDS specialist from Rochdale health authority, saying that sexual problems at Knowl View would become a “public scandal”;
- a report commissioned by Rochdale metropolitan borough council from a consultant clinical psychologist, revealing that up to a quarter of boys living at Knowl View had taken part in “serious sexual incidents”;
- a report by Rochdale council’s director of education, accusing teaching staff at Knowl View of a “dereliction of duty”, with boys aware of “a considerable level of sexual activity” among those supposedly looking after them.
Martin Digan, a care worker at the school who tried to blow the whistle, told Exaro: “The police need to mount a full inquiry into events that took place at Knowl View.”
In July, Exaro revealed a document that showed how Smith made a robust denial in 1970 to detectives that he sexually abused boys.
Exaro published Smith’s comments in full, as recorded by police.
Digan told how he often complained that Smith would keep using his own set of keys to access the school.
Smith is also linked to Elm Guest House in Barnes, south-west London in evidence uncovered by Exaro, and also obtained by the Metropolitan Police Service’s ‘Operation Fernbridge’, which is investigating allegations of child sex abuse in Richmond three decades ago.
Two men, John Stingemore and Tony McSweeney, made their first court appearance last week as a result of that investigation.
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