Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Sins of Sir Cyril Smith!

as told in the June 2013 issue of NorthernVoices No.14: 
 

Printed version of Northern Voices 14 still available.



I, Cyril Smith, was born illegitimate and into poverty in Rochdale, in 1928. By my early thirties I had, via a combination of hard work and political cunning, established myself as a significant figure on the town council. It was from this base that I embarked on a series of sexual assaults on young men, over at least 30 years, in a variety of public institutions.  I used political guile and bullying to cover my tracks and evade prosecution for my crimes, and died with my public reputation largely unsullied in 2010.  
 
There are many parallels with the Jimmy Savile who came from Leeds. We were both ‘larger than life’ northerners with unusually strong attachments to our mothers, who were ‘too busy’ to have time for an established relationship with an adult companion, or lover.  But beneath these superficial similarities there are darker likenesses:   our attraction to pubescent youngsters; preying on those in ‘care’ institutions, and our ability to duck and dive around institutions in order to satisfy our illicit sexual desires, and abuse of the very disadvantaged youngsters we publicly professed to support.  
 
One significant difference between us, however, is that once ‘discovered’ in the autumn of 2012, the Savile affair led to the establishment of five separate enquiries – most notably ‘Operation Yewtree’ - to determine how the man had been able to escape prosecution for over half a century.  In my case, no such enquiry has been established.  My crimes fleetingly passed through the gaze of the press in November and December last year and have now disappeared from view, with my accomplices and protectors largely unsullied.  
 
Savile's crimes are now publicly laid bare; institutional failures have been identified and remedial action taken to ensure similar failings cannot recur. This has not happened in the my case:  failing bodies remain unaccountable, covers-up remain in place, negligent authorities and persons have yet to be held fully responsible for their shortcomings.  Their inactions almost certainly led to further undetected abuse and suffering and yet there has been no public apology and rectification for the incompetence/negligence and the abuses of public power that enables the weak to be preyed upon.  
 
What follows is a record of my exploits over my years in public life:  
 
This article attempts to address the Smith vacuum.The chronology below identifies Smith’s known crimes, and exposing those guilty of covering up, or preventing, the prosecution of them.  
 
1952:  I became Rochdale’s youngest councillor, aged 23. I became a member of the education committee, on which he sat until the mid 1970’s (chairman 1966 – 1971).  
 
1962:  I was by now a senior figure on Rochdale Council.   I persuaded the local Rotary Club and Round Table to co-fund the establishment of a hostel for boys and young men in the town – Cambridge House. I was supported in this by the townfs senior probation officer, and the project received a grant from the local authority.  The hostel accommodated up to 20 young males; most of whom were apprentices from a local engineering works.Smith left these boys alone.  A smaller number were teenagers who had troubled backgrounds, for whom the hostel offered a refuge, often from domestic abuse or neglect.  I, systematically, physically and sexually abused these younger boys, under the guise of administering corporal punishments and undertaking medicals.  
1964:  At the AGM of the Cambridge House  hostel, I announced:
‘We earnestly hope that we have found for the boys a home in which they can find the right moral and character-building influence'.  
 
1969   Lyndon Price, a relatively junior social worker with Rochdale Council reported claims that I was abusing young men at Cambridge House to the Rochdale police (the borough had its own force at the time).  I was told by Pat Ross, the then Chief Constable, that ‘it has been decided’ not to prosecute. I was a powerful politician on a council that comprised one third of the then local controlling committee of the police (the “Watch Committee”). 
 
(Rochdale Observer 10 February 2013).  Price later progressed to be Rochdale’s Director of Social Services, but never enjoyed good professional relations with Smith, after this police report. Cambridge House closed later that year, as funds ran out and the council refused an application for an increased grant, following Price and colleagues’ concerns about the welfare of the residents of the hostel.
1970   Cyril Smith became Mayor of Rochdale and MBE (for services to the community).  
 
1971   Current Rossendale Councillor, Ronald Allan Neil, complained to the Rochdale police that he had been physically assaulted by Smith in Cambridge House in 1964, when aged 11.  Nothing happened as a result: ‘everyone made the same comment that (he) was a very important, powerful man’, he told the BBC on 15 November 2012.  
 
1972   A former resident, who wishes to remain anonymous, told the authorities, while he was in Risley Remand Home, of my sexual abuse of Cambridge House residents.  This provoked a police enquiry into my activities there.  The enquiry lasted six months, taking evidence from a large number of witnesses, including eight former Cambridge House residents, whocomplained of being victims of physical and sexual abuse by me, together with seniorlocal politicians and council officials.  
 
At this time, I was an Alderman and chairman of the local education committee.  Although he had recently defected from the labour party to join the liberals (and become their candidate at the 1970 election), he called upon friend and sitting Labour MP, Jack McCann, to intervene in the inquiry and have it stopped.  McCann was a Labour whip, in the House of Commons, and politically close to the then Home Secretary, Jim Callaghan. McCann said he contacted the then Lancashire Chief Constable William Palfrey.  
 
The Rochdale-based policeman who conducted the enquiry, Derek Wheater, complained that his attempts to bring Smith to justice had been blocked at every turn by local politicians. (Manchester Evening News 29 November 2012).  As a result, a Whitefield-based policeman, who wishes to remain anonymous, was drafted in to help.  He told the Evening News that Smith had admitted spanking boys and felt that he would have pleaded guilty had he been brought to trial.He told the Evening News that Smith was clearly frightened and claimed felt that a trial would kill my mother. 
 
The Lancashire police felt there was a case to answer and the 80-page report was sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions, with recommendations for prosecution. The DPP's office has spent much of the period between then and 2012, when asked, refusing to confirm or deny whether they had received such a report. It was, however, turned around, by the then DPP, Sir Norman Skelhorn, in the remarkably quick period of eight days, marked  'No further action'. Not in the public interesth on 19 March 1970 (Guardian 16 November 2012).According to the Daily Mail, 24 November 2012, within that short period, the DPP's office was advised by a prominent external barrister that there were grounds for prosecution.
Skelhorn, himself, was an interesting and accident-prone DPP. In the course of his 12 year tenure, he gave immunity from prosecution to Britain's first super-grass, Bertie Small, in a decision the Law Lords later called a less than unholy deal While addressing the Harvard Law Society he made the rather strange statement for a law officer that when dealing with Irish terrorists any methods were justified; and he was duped by the then- apartheid security forces of South Africa into prosecuting liberal activist and later labour cabinet minister, Peter Hain, for holding up a branch of Barclays bank.  
 
It isn’t clear whether Skelhorn’s suspect judgment in the Smith case came about after having been leant on by politicians to drop the case or not. This was not an uncommon practice in the 1970’s, as former labour Attorney General, Sam Silkin, told the Daily Mirror on 29 September 1979.  
 
1969:   While council officials and senior local politicians knew of allegations of abuse by Smith to young men, Rochdale Council established Knowl View school, under Smith’s leadership, as chairman of the education committee. Knowl View was a residential school for up to 48 emotionally and behaviourally disturbed boys, and was to be the centre of allegations of sexual abuse for its 25 years of existence.Smith was a governor of the school for much of this time. Precisely how long is difficult to establish, as a Freedom of Information inquiry to Rochdale Council, from Chris Paul, discovered in 2009. He wished to know precisely this, and the council refused to provide an answer over a period of seven months, involving 11 pieces of correspondence.  
 
June 1970 Smith was defeated, by McCann, in general election, as MP for Rochdale.  
 
1970 Michael Steed became a 12-year old resident of Knowl View, where he stayed for five years. He later became a senior Roman Catholic cleric and confident to Tony Blair. In his autobiography Nobodyfs Child, published in 2008, he made several very explicit references to the sexual abuse of boys at Knowl View, and the fact that some of them were ensnared in a rent boy racket. Only one conviction ever transpired, of former teacher David Higgins, in 2002, some 30 years after his crimes there.  
 
October 1972:   Smith elected in by-election, MP for Rochdale for the first time, following death of McCann. 
 
'The early 1970’s' A referral to the DPP relating to Smith 'over an allegation or allegations relating to indecent obscene publications'. Evidence of this emerged in a statement by the CPS on 6 December 2012. In what was an unintended, heavily ironic statement the CPS said that they were making public this referral 'in the interests of openness and transparency'. With barely a gasp for breath the office maintained 'there are no files in our possession that relate to (this)...we are therefore unable to determine ... if any action was taken.'  
 
February 1974:   Inconclusive result to general election.Both conservative and labour parties in discussions with liberals over forming possible coalition/pact.  A copy of the Smith child abuse file was taken by Special Branch officers to London, as part of security clearance of any MPs likely to be involved in the formation of the new government, and not returned to Preston. The later leader of the liberal party, David Steel, denied knowledge of this in January2013 Private Eye.  
 
1976 Paul Foulston, detective constable from Thames Valley police, while working on a routine murder investigation, went to a remand centre to interview a suspect (who was later eliminated from enquiries) when he was intercepted by two special branch officers, who told him not to proceed with his interview as they were 'working on an enquiry relating to an MP'. Foulston ignored their instruction and interviewed the young man, who told him in graphic detail how Smith preferred sex with young men and discarded them when their physiology changed. 'It was totally revolting', Foulston told the Guardian on 16 November 2012, 'he must have mentioned it to the prison authorities, and they must have told special branch.'  
 
1976:  Liberal party leader, Jeremy Thorpe is embroiled in a bizarre story regarding a jilted gay lover, a shot dog and attempted murder.Thorpe was hounded by the press and Smith at the time was his chief whip.He was less than supportive to Thorpe, despite his own past, and provided the press with unhelpful gossip about Thorpe.  
 
1977: By now Steel was leader of the liberal party and there were renewed discussion between the labour government and the liberals over the formation of a mutual assistance pact. Lancashire special branch officer, Tony Robinson, received a call from MI5, asking him to send a copy of their Smith file to London, because, according to Robinson he “was being investigated for a position at the top table”. (Manchester Evening News 29 November 2012). David Steel denied all knowledge of this, to Private Eye in January 2013.
1977 Smith’s ghosted autobiography, Big Cyril, inexplicably, mentions none of the above.  
 
1978/79:  Rochdale’s Alternative Paper (RAP), a small community magazine in the town decided to investigate what lay behind the rumours of the “Smith story” that had circulated in political circles in the town for a decade. In the course of the six month investigation, the paper interviewed more than 30 people, including seven former residents of Cambridge House, senior local politicians and police officers and council officials, all on an “off the record” basis, about my activities at the hostel.  
 
Having had every word of the story they published libel-read by three independent sets of lawyers, each on a pro-bono basis, RAP published a 2,000 word account of Smith’s sexual and physical abuse of teenage boys at Cambridge House. This included quotes from some of the victims – anonymously- taken from the affidavits they had sworn, for the paper. The magazine had sought a response from Smith prior to publication, but he offered none. It sought the views of the then leader of the liberal party, David Steel, to the article, and published the answer they received from his press secretary:  'It is not a very friendly gesture, publishing that.All he seems to have done is spanked a few bare bottoms.'  
 
Smith slapped a gagging writ on the magazine, which he never pursued. Almost all major news organisations in the country purchased copies of the magazine, but Smith threatened all who approached him about the story with libel.  
 
Private Eye was the only national publication to cover, and repeat the allegation (Eye 454). Smith took no action. He increased his majority in the general election a week after the RAP story appeared, and the matter faded away from the public view.  
 
1979:  Chris Marshall, an eight-year old resident at Knowl View was forced to perform a sex act on me (Independent 28 November 2012).  
 
1980:  Smith took a 16 year-old youth, with an unhappy family background, under his wing and groomed him.The young man was a young liberal and Smith encouraged his political activity, impressed him with his contacts and implied that he could help the boy further his political career.He also began to sexually molest the youngster, including on one occasion in his office in parliament, while senior politicians, including then leader of the labour party, Michael Foot passed by on the other side of the closed door. In the course of the abusive relationship, Smith bragged to the young man that he had evaded conviction over the Cambridge House assaults, which the man took to imply that it would be a waste of his time if ever he complained about Smith. (Guardian 30 November 2012). The abuse was not reported, or acted upon, at the time, although the man in question, now a Greater Manchester businessman with four children, has now given statements about it to the Greater Manchester police and Rochdale MP, Simon Danczuk.  
 
Dr Alison Fraser, child psychologist at Rochdale’s Birch Hill hospital raised concerns of “inappropriate sexual behaviour” at Knowl View school, and found it difficult to believe that staff there were not aware of it.
1988:  Smith was knighted for political services. Always a member of the awkward, but vain, squad, his nomination by liberal leader David Steel, ensured that he did not rock the boat during the delicate merger talkers between the liberal and social democrat parties, that led to the creation of today’s liberal democrat party.
The Political Honours Scrutiny Committee was established following corrupt practices by Lloyd George in relation to the award of “political” honours, in the 1920s. Its explicit purpose is to ensure that they are only awarded to fit and proper people, after an appropriate investigation. Serious questions must be laid at their door.  Did they conduct an inquiry into Smith, before his knighthood was awarded? If so, did it not uncover the various police complaints and security service investigations about the man? If it did, how were they still satisfied that he was a fit and proper person to receive a knighthood? Etc.  
 
September 1990:  An adult male intruder had sexual contact with a number of boys at Knowl View school, and their cries for help went unheard. One pupil claimed to have been raped and another forced to perform oral sex. (Independent 10 September 1995).
1991:  Phil Sheppard, a Rochdale council HIV worker, reported concerns of male prostitution at Knowl View school to the education authorities and was told to stop circulating his report on the matter. (Independent 11 September 1993).
1992:  Rochdale’s director of education, Diana Cavanagh, conducted an inquiry into Knowl View. Her report included the redacted name of an adult implicated. No prosecution followed.
1992 Smith retired as MP and was given Freedom of the Borough of Rochdale
1993 Rochdale liberal councillor, John Heyworth, was convicted of indecently assaulting a 14-year old girl. He refused to resign from the council’s children’s sub- committee, and Smith publicly defended his right to remain on it (Eye 817).
1994 Martin Digan, head of care at Knowl View, became suspicious when he established that Smith had keys made, giving him 24-hour access to the school (as he had done previously at Cambridge House and as Savile had done in a number of institutions). Digan handed a dossier alleging sexual abuse of about a quarter of the school’s residents to education and police officials. No apparent action was taken, although Dignan was made redundant the following year.
1995 Knowl View school partially burned down in a fire apparently caused by some of the pupils (Seed’s Nobody’s Child), and school finally closed shortly afterwards.
1998 During the course of a police investigation into allegations of child sex abuse in a home in Wales, a Cambridge House victim rang a helpline number and complained once again of his treatment at the hands of Smith, at Cambridge House,in the 1960s. The police referred the matter to the CPS. They took no action, despite the fact that one of their records of the referral, or the outcome to it. They did not, however, say that the DPP does not have any such records.
“1980’s”  According to the Independent on Sunday (27 January 2013), two boys, under the age of 16 identified Smith as a user of rent boys at the Elm Guest House, in Barnes, London.  The boys were in local authority care. Detectives, in 2013, were re-examining what they believe their lawyers said there was a case for a prosecution, on the grounds that there was nothing new in the complaint and that Smith had been told in 1970 that he would not be prosecuted.
1999 Police referred another file to the CPS about Smith’s behaviour at Cambridge House, this time including statements of two new witnesses and victims. Despite the fact that this clearly was new evidence, the CPS once more refused to act. Serious questions must be asked about the efficacy of this decision.  Was it negligence, incompetence, or continued evidence of a cover up?
The revelations about the 1998 and 1999 police references to the CPS emerged from a rapidly released statement in November last year. The Manchester Evening News noted ‘dug out damning evidence of abuse as well as testimony from officers recommending prosecutions.’ (28 November 2012). 
 
2002 Only known prosecution for any of the abuse, outlined above, when former Knowl View teacher, David Higgins jailed for 12 month, on 11 counts of sexual abuse of boys at Knowl View, in the 1970s. 
September 2010 Smith died.  
November 2012:  Following revelations in the Savile scandal, Private Eye republished details of the 1979 Cambridge House story. Some of the hostel’s victims spoke to Paul Waugh, of Politicshome.com,  publicly for the first time.  Barry Fitton repeated, on the record, almost verbatim, what he told RAP in 1979. Eddie Sharrock, whom RAP had identified, but not contacted in 1979, spoke out for the first time, about abuse in the home. Rochdale MP, Simon Danczuk raised the issue in  Parliament. New witnesses emerged, statements were made by Greater Manchester police and the CPS, attempting to explain past deficiencies.  
 
Sources close to the current Greater Manchester Police inquiry ... said that the CPS statement had been released as a face-saving exercise because of the intense pressure from former detectives who worked on the case ... (they) had.  But serious questions remain – to a number of major public institutions - that this article has sought to contextualise and pose.
Most culpable of all is Rochdale Council. Although Smith had been a senior member, they ignored rumours and accusations of his conduct at both Cambridge House hostel and Knowl View school for over 40 years, during which time, they gave him the freedom of the borough. They are still dragging their feet over child abuse.  In December 2012 Ofsted described their child protection services as being “troubled” and “inadequate”, and a month later Simon Danczuk hit out at their dithering over the publication of a report concerning the child-sex grooming activities in the borough, which resulted in eight convictions in June 2012. (Community Care, 30 January 2013).
Next, the Director of Public Prosecutions. Their office has evaded questions on Smith’s activities for over 30 years.  They have failed to give an adequate explanation of what lay behind the decision not to prosecute in 1970, nor have they accounted for their inability to deal with the Cambridge House allegations in 1998 and 1999, despite the fact that new evidence had been submitted to them. They have rather pathetically shielded behind the CPS in failing to explain why they did not act against the obscene publications and bribery allegations brought against Smith in the 1970s and 1980s.
The Political Honours Scrutiny Committee has questions to ask about its lack of scrutiny over the award of a knighthood to Smith in 1988. 
Both the Labour Party and Liberal Party have questions to answer about attempted covers-up of Smiths crimes, and turning a blind eye to them for political advantage.
Both the Lancashire and Greater Manchester police, together with the independent press emerge with some credit, over these 40 plus years.  The police have been dogged in their enquiries and pursuit of Smith, on at least five occasions.  On each one, interventions from above, or from the DPP’s office has prevented prosecution.  It has been the efforts of the minority press: RAP, Private Eye and PoliticsHome, together with a small north-west magazine, Northern Voices that has kept this story alive for 40 years.
Smith is dead and cannot be prosecuted, but his victims deserve public apologies from the authorities who ignored his abuses. Their abuse will continue to be ridiculed and marginalised by national and local political establishments for as long as Smith remains a knight of the realm, and a freeman of Rochdale.



2 comments:

Anonymous said...

but you are wrong about Savile. He had several affairs with adult women unlike Smith although I don't the facts of the other claims about him. There is no comparison.

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