Sir Cyril Smith may be focus of initial public hearings into UK failures over child sex abuse
“The CPS has done all the hard work in compiling the available material from the several police investigations into Smith”
– Source close to CSA inquiry
Justice Lowell Goddard is set to announce this month that the troubled inquiry into child sex abuse will hold hearings sooner than expected.
One option for some initial hearings is to examine why Sir Cyril Smith, the late Liberal MP, was not prosecuted on three separate occasions for sexually abusing boys even though there was enough evidence.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) admitted in 2012 that it would not then have refused to prosecute Smith on the same evidence, as had happened in 1970, 1998 and 1999.
Exaro understands that the overarching inquiry into child sex abuse (CSA) has asked the CPS to hand over a copy of all its files – including police reports – on Smith so that it can hold hearings, which are expected to be in public, into the failure to prosecute the politician. Last year, Exaro forced the CPS to disclose one damning police report on Smith from 1970.
A spokeswoman for the inquiry said: “There are going to be a series of announcements this month, and these will include which cases the public hearings will tackle.”
However, she was unable to say whether any of the initial hearings would focus on Smith, who died in 2010.
The inquiry had planned to kick-off with an examination of the case of Lord Janner, the former Labour MP, after Alison Saunders, director of public prosecutions (DPP), initially decided in April against charging him with 22 offences of child sex abuse on grounds of his severe dementia. The DPP supplied the inquiry with all relevant documentation on the Janner case.
However, the DPP’s refusal to charge was reversed in June after a review, and the case is expected to be heard as a trial of the facts.
Janner has always denied the allegations.
The CSA inquiry will have to wait until the trial has finished before it can examine the Janner case.
Sources close to Ben Emmerson, counsel to the inquiry, say that he is keen to show progress in the inquiry after a series of mishaps.
Last month, the inquiry announced that it had lost information submitted through its online form, “share your experience”, between September 14 and October 2, saying that it “was instantly and permanently deleted before it reached our engagement team.”
And Exaro revealed in June how the inquiry was looking to create a 21-strong legal team.
One well-placed source told Exaro: “The CPS has done all the hard work in compiling the available material from the several police investigations into Smith, so it makes sense for the inquiry to look closely at what exactly went wrong in that case.”
The police are not investigating Smith directly, although the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is overseeing investigations into apparent failures at Scotland Yard and Greater Manchester Police (GMP) to expose Smith as a paedophile.
GMP is also investigating allegations of abuse in Rochdale that are linked to Smith, at Knowl View special school, where he had been a governor.
The judge-led panel inquiry is also expected this month to announce details of the pilot of a “truth project”, through which abuse survivors can tell their stories.
The members of the inquiry panel, as shown in the picture above, are (left to right): Ivor Frank, barrister and advisor to the Home Office; Drusilla Sharpling, former chief crown prosecutor in London and inspector of constabulary for 13 police forces across Wales, the Midlands and south-west England; Lowell Goddard, former High Court judge in New Zealand; Alexis Jay, author of the report on CSA in Rotherham; and Malcolm Evans, professor of public international law.
Allegations of abuse by prominent people form one of five strands of the CSA inquiry. The other four are: education and religion; criminal justice; local authorities and voluntary organisations; and private organisations.
Sources close to the inquiry say that it wants to focus on “specimen cases” within each strand in order to curb the time that it will take in total.
The inquiry – announced by Theresa May, home secretary, in July 2014 – has already been limited to England and Wales. There are separate inquiries in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Jersey.