How Cyril Smith went free when he COULD have been put on trial: Prosecutors ruled there was ‘realistic’ chance of conviction but advised against case because he was told he wouldn’t face charges
- Cyril Smith was exposed as a serial molester of boys after his death in 2010
- The former MP for Rochdale escaped justice despite repeated complaints
- Prosecutors said there was a chance of conviction 12 years before his death
- They were advised against bringing case and police failed to interview him
Prosecutors ruled there was a realistic chance of convicting Cyril Smith of child sex offences 12 years before he died.
But they advised against bringing a case because the Liberal politician had been assured decades earlier that he would not face charges.
Documents made public yesterday also reveal that police knew of three potential witnesses to Smith’s abuse but failed to interview them.
Since his death in 2010 at the age of 82, the former MP for Rochdale has been exposed as a serial molester of scores of young boys.
He escaped justice despite repeated complaints by his victims and a series of inquiries.
Lancashire Police investigated him in 1969 over complaints that he abused eight teenage boys at a hostel in Rochdale.
But the then Director of Public Prosecutions, Sir Norman Skelhorn, rejected the case, ruling the following year that the allegations were ‘somewhat stale’ and ‘completely without corroboration’.
In 1998 the Crown Prosecution Service was asked to review the original file of evidence – and its resulting advice to police was finally released yesterday after a lengthy Freedom of Information battle.
Peter Watson, Crown prosecutor for Rochdale, noted in his ruling at the time that the alleged victims living in the hostel all complained of ‘virtually the same type of indecent misconduct’ and had given consistent accounts.
He said it was understandable that they had failed to complain immediately given Smith’s imposing physical size and position of authority. Mr Watson added that the politician’s response to the allegations was ‘by no means convincing’ because he had not addressed the boys’ specific claims.
He concluded: ‘I have arrived at the firm view, having regard in particular to the number and nature of the complaints and how they came to be made, that there would be a realistic prospect of conviction.’
But the prosecutor went on to recommend against charging Smith because police had told him back in March 1970 that he would not face further action.
He said: ‘If a decision was reached to institute proceedings, then the prosecution would undoubtedly face legal argument from the defence to the effect that it would be an abuse of the process of the court to allow the prosecution to continue with its case. My own view in this case is that the defence would be more likely than not to be successful.’
No prosecution was brought – but then two more men came forward to Manchester police to make complaints against Smith and a further file was submitted in 1999.
This time Mr Watson ruled against any action because one did not constitute a crime and the evidence in the second claim was ‘not particularly strong’. But he observed that detectives were aware of other people who might have relevant information – yet had not spoken to them.
He wrote: ‘I have been told that there are three further potential witnesses whose identities are known but who have not been interviewed by the police. Whether or not they should be traced and interviewed is entirely an operational matter for the police.
‘I do not think that it would be appropriate for me to offer any advice or recommendation upon that aspect of the case.’
In 2012 the CPS stressed that Smith would have faced prosecution had the same allegations been made against him today.
Rochdale’s current MP Labour’s Simon Danczuk said: ‘I have spoken to police officers involved in Operation Cleopatra and they thought Cyril Smith was guilty as hell.
‘They will be extremely disappointed that the CPS were in a hurry to shred the evidence.’
Victim called himself ‘daddy’s little princess’
A Labour minister suspected of sexually abusing children with a convicted paedophile tried to help the pervert foster two young brothers, it was claimed yesterday.