Monday, 30 September 2013

Continued cover-up and denial about Smith in Rochdale

MORE sanctimonious piffle pours out of Rochdale, and self-delusion abounds, following the excellent Dispatches programme: "Paedophile MP: How Cyril Smith got away with it", a couple of weeks ago.

The town's establishment and local newspaper, the Rochdale Observer, continue to avoid uncomfortable truths, or face their complicity in his prolonged sexual abuse of children.

The late night TV documentary guided viewers through the years of Smith's predatory behaviour, in which he systematically took advantage of his positions of authority, to prey on vulnerable boys in care homes and special schools, and others, who were over-awed by his public standing.  Victims gave moving testimony to their humiliation and suffering at Smith's hands.

Rochdale's public authorities and local newspaper were, and remain, culpable of neglect and complicity in this sorry Smith saga. 

As the programme showed, many in power knew, or were highly suspicious of, Smith's predatory behaviour - during his reign of paedophilia in the town -  and turned a blind eye, or did not intervene, - to permit his prolonged and damaging abuse to continue.

Cambridge House, scene of his first known wave of child abuse, was closed down in the mid 1960's, following concerns expressed by some in Rochdale Council's children's services department about his inappropriate activities with its young residents.

Yet, months later, the same public authority permitted the same paedophile to use his position as chair of the education committee to establish a "Special school", for vulnerable boys, with which he was closely associated for the 25 years of its existence. His sexual advances to damaged youngsters continued - and those in authority, with a responsibility to protect the young and defenceless, looked the other way as the monster carried on harming and destroying vulnerable lives.

When suspicions and firm testimony of sexual abuse at Knowl View emerged, in the mid 1990's, rather than pursue the perpetrators - Smith among them - Rochdale Council moved against those drawing attention to them, closed the school down and ensured that all files about the school were to hidden from public scrutiny for 100 years!

Doesn't say too much for the Council's duty of care to the vulnerable, does it?

What did the authorities have to hide in going to such lengths to make the records so inaccessible, apart from their own shame, guilt and acknowledgement of their betrayal of those in their care?

This head in the sand, look the other way, attitude by Rochdale Council continues to this day. A week after the Dispatches programme, the culpable local authority hosted BBC's Question Time in "The Cyril Smith Room" of the Town Hall, and film cameras breezed past a photograph of the paedophile, as they swept into action!

Is there no shame in that Town Hall?

How disgraceful does Smith's behaviour have to demonstrated to have been before these flattering references and his freemanship of the borough become expunged?

How stomach-churning for the abused to continue see the monster lauded by those who were paid to protect them from his predatory behaviour? The suffering of the defenceless and the voiceless are still drowned out by the bluster of the now deceased domineering bully, who still casts a long dark shadow over Rochdale.

As readers of this blog will recall, Rochdale's Alternative Paper, of which I was co-editor in the 1970's, published a well-sourced, considered and authoritative 2,000 word article, cleared by three sets of highly reputable lawyers, in May 1979, outlining Smith's abuse at Cambridge House - with harrowing sworn testimony quotes from some of the victims.

It was read by everyone in a position of authority in Rochdale, at the time. And ignored. Emboldened, Smith continued to abuse.

Among those who ignored the story were the cheerleaders of the Cyril Smith fan club, the Rochdale Observer, under its awe-struck editor Norman "Nifty" Thornton. Not only did the Ob ignore the story, it went out of its way to deny the very existence of the paper which published it - for the dozen or so years of its existence.

Their failure to publish, or even investigate, the cast iron story of Smith's sexual exploits, would have further encouraged Smith in his abuse of the vulnerable, and was probably responsible for the damage done to dozens more  young victims - he was fire-proof. Had they chased the story, they could have stopped him in his tracks and ended, or at least very seriously disrupted, the reign of tyranny of the defenceless.

But they sat on their hands.  They did nothing, except continue to lead the Smith cheer-leading pack. In short, they were a disgrace to anything that could call itself a free press, with public interest at its core.

And now? Rather than apologise to the victims whom Smith damaged, after they turned a blind eye, last week's Rochdale Observer sought to bask in the sunshine of their "disclosures and investigations", last year - 35 years after they knew of the story!!

Such unctuous self delusion! 

The ownership of the newspaper may have changed in the last 35 years, but their ability to spout cant clearly hasn't.

At last, the abused have had their suffering publicly exposed, and the Smith nailed for his crimes. 

It's such a shame that Rochdale's establishment and local rag have yet to come to terms with their own complicity in this story, which still shames the whole town.

They could start with a very firm public apology to Smith's victims, as a first step in acknowledging their negligence and culpability in his later crimes.

But, don't hold your breath.

The current printed issue of NORTHERN VOICES No.14, is now available for sale - see below. This issue N.V.14 has an in-depth and exclusive report by John Walker, a former editor of the Rochdale Alternative Paper (RAP) on the full history of Cyril Smith's antics with young lads. RAP was the first publication to go public on this in May 1979. You can obtain a copy by writing or contacting the people whose details are below:
Postal subscription: £5 for the next two issues (post included). Cheques made payable to 'Northern Voices' should be sent c/o 52, Todmorden Road, Burnley, Lancashire BB10 4AH.
Tel.: 0161 793 5122.

1 comment:

Blue Shed Blogger said...

One of the sharpest, informative and accurate pieces of writing I have seen in a long time. We'll done! Rochdale's ability to avoid facing up to unpalatable truths continues down the decades and is alive and well. The role of the Ob is a disgrace to journalism. Who? Why? What? Where and when? Not in this rag.