NSPCC baffled as Greater Manchester Police drops investigation into former Liberal MP
By Nick Fielding | 13 May 2013
The move by Greater Manchester Police is bound to trigger accusations by victims of the ex-MP for Rochdale in Lancashire of an establishment cover-up.
It contrasts with Scotland Yard’s comprehensive investigation into Jimmy Savile, the BBC star who died in 2011 and was exposed as a paedophile last October. West Yorkshire Police on Friday published a report of its separate investigation of its own failures over Savile.
The Metropolitan Police Service conducted an investigation into Savile jointly with the NSPCC, the charity aimed at preventing cruelty to children. The charity offered to help Greater Manchester Police (GMP) with a similar fact-finding exercise on Smith, but confirmed to Exaro that it was rebuffed.
Police promised an investigation into Smith, who died in 2010, after the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) admitted last November that decisions against prosecuting the politician in 1970, in 1998 and 1999, would not have been made today on the same evidence.
In its mea culpa, the CPS said: “Any victims who are considering coming forward should not be dissuaded by the decisions of the past.”
At the same time, GMP issued a statement that said: “Greater Manchester Police has now assumed overall command of the investigation into allegations of sexual abuse made against the late Sir Cyril Smith.”
“The force is now publicly acknowledging that young boys were victims of physical and sexual abuse committed by Smith.” GMP took over separate inquiries by Lancashire Constabulary.
The evidence is that Smith abused young 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 special school, where he was chairman of the governors.
The GMP statement continued: “It is absolutely important for those victims who were abused by Smith that we publicly acknowledge the suffering that they endured.
“Although Smith cannot be charged or convicted posthumously, from the overwhelming evidence that we have, it is right and proper that we should publicly recognise that young boys were sexually and physically abused, and we shall offer them as much support as they need should they wish to speak to us.”
“If we receive any evidence that anyone was complicit in the abuse that is still alive today, we shall of course investigate that thoroughly.”
But the investigation has run into the ground. A GMP spokesman told Exaro: “I can confirm that there will be no inquiry into Cyril Smith.”
“There are some outstanding legal issues concerning physical abuse still to be resolved, but there is no ongoing inquiry.”
The NSPCC said that it offered to help GMP by supplying a dedicated telephone hotline for Smith’s victims to call.
It ran a similar hotline for the Met’s ‘Operation Yewtree’ for Savile’s victims. The operation has spread to investigate allegations against associates of Savile and others from the celebrity world.
John Cameron, the NSPCC’s head of child protection operations, told Exaro: “We had people call us to make allegations about Smith, and we referred them to the police. But when we offered to set up a telephone line as in Operation Yewtree, they chose not to use our services.”
Ronald Neal, who was physically abused as a boy by Smith while living briefly at Cambridge House in the 1960’s, told Exaro that GMP detectives assured him that they would recommend a public inquiry to the home secretary. The police took a detailed statement from him.
Neal, a councillor since 1988 at Rossendale borough council on the outskirts of Rochdale, said: “It is very, very sad for all Smith’s victims that yet again Greater Manchester Police is failing the very victims that it failed more than 50 years ago.”
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.
The same evidence also linked the notorious guest house to what was dubbed Britain’s “biggest child sex racket”.
Update 20 May 2013: GMP points out that, contrary to John Cameron’s comments, it used the NSPCC helpline when it began its investigation into Cyril Smith last November. The Met used the same telephone number in Operation Yewtree.
In response to Ronald Neal’s comment, GMP also points out that it did not come into existence until 1974.
Lancashire Police investigated Cyril Smith in the 1960’s. The part of the Lancashire force that carried out that investigation became incorporated into GMP when it was formed in 1974. GMP later investigated Smith twice, in 1998 and 1999.
Update 21 May 2013: GMP today announced that it was investigating three complaints of sexual abuse at Knowl View school dating back to the 1970’s.
However, police are not investigating allegations against Smith.
Related Stories: Child sex abuse, ‘Fernbridge’ and ‘Fairbank’: Exaro story thread