Friday, 25 April 2014

'How I exposed Smith Scandal 35-years-ago!'

THE college lecturer who first exposed Sir Cyril Smith as a serial child abuser has said that he would be 'astounded' if senior party figures were unaware of his behaviour.
John Walker and a fellow teacher unmasked the Liberal MP in what he describes as their 'small and rather obscure publication' in 1979.  In a two-page exposé, Rochdale’s Alternative Paper set out the testimonies of boys subjected to 'medical inspection' by the local MP. It also showed that police were aware but failed to investigate. The report was almost entirely ignored by the national media and Smith remained a public figure until he died in 2010 at 82.  It was only after his death that the Crown Prosecution Service admitted its failings in refusing to prosecute.
A new book by Simon Danczuk, the Labour MP, has refocused attention on his abuse, and presented evidence that the police, CPS, security services and politicians were complicit in covering up allegations against him.
The Liberal Democrats, the successor party to the Liberals, have sought to distance themselves from the claims but Mr Walker said that it was inconceivable that senior figures in the Liberal party, which had only 11 MPs after the 1979 election, were unaware of the accusations against Smith. 'This wasn’t the Chinese army with a million people and a general at the top with no idea what was going on,' he said.  'He [Smith] was a prominent member of the party. He had been chief whip.'
As part of the original article, Mr Walker contacted the office of David Steel, then the Liberal party leader. A spokesman told them: 'It’s not a very friendly gesture, publishing that. All he seems to have done is spanked a few bare bottoms.'  Lord Steel of Aikwood has refused to comment.
Mr Walker said that the allegations fell on “blind eyes and deaf ears” because it was an “inconvenient truth” for his party. “Smith for the Liberals was extremely good news. He was a jolly, working-class lad in a party that was removed and middle-class and struggling in working-class areas.”
The story was exposed after Mr Walker and his co-editor, David Bartlett, heard rumours and began a six-month investigation, gathering testimonies from victims as well as senior police and staff at a children’s home where abuse took place.
With the help of lawyers to protect them against libel, they got the claims on to their front page, which was mocked up to mimic the MP’s campaign posters. The publication was given to “at least a dozen” national media reporters, but all except Private Eye were cowed in the face of threats.
Days after the story was published in Rochdale’s Alternative Paper, voters went to the polls and returned Smith as MP with an increased majority.
The result was “a major kick in the teeth”, Mr Walker said.  He was so disillusioned that he left Rochdale and the paper folded. Smith continued as if nothing had happened.  'Smith spent his life bullying and blustering through most things,' Mr Walker said.  'He continued to blunder through until his death.'
A turning point came after the death of Jimmy Savile, when revelations about his child abuse became a national scandal.  It prompted Mr Walker to give Smith’s story “one last prod”.  After receiving help from Paul Waugh, the political blogger, the story was picked up by Mr Danczuk, who is MP for Rochdale.  He raised the allegations in the Commons, and they snowballed.
Mr Walker, 66, now runs an education charity in Gambia and said that it was “really very good indeed” that it was finally receiving so much attention.
He said “extremely salutary lessons” had been learnt from the case of Savile, not least by the CPS and the police.
'I think we are in different territory now. I would never say that there is not a[nother] Smith out there getting away with it today, but I think the chance of them being picked up or charged is much greater post-Savile.'
He is damning about the media’s failure to pursue the claims. 'I’m not trying to be sanctimonious about this,' he said.  'But 35 years ago two college lecturers heard the stories, put in the legwork and wrote the story.  We put our jobs, mortgages and god knows what else on the line.'
From The Times, Monday 21st, April 2014.  John Walker is now an author on Northern Voices.

No comments: