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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Cambridge House, Knowl View and Rochdale Investigation Report

Allegations made to Lyndon Price in 1965

18. The first known suggestion made to anyone in authority that Cyril Smith might be acting inappropriately towards the boys at Cambridge House was in late October 1965, shortly before the hostel closed. Lyndon Price made a statement on 20 January 1970, as part of the Lancashire Constabulary investigation,[1] in which he explained that, following a referral from a child care officer, James Gavin, he had spoken to a 16-year-old boy, RO-A49, who said that Smith had spanked him on his bare buttocks as punishment for some wrong done by him. Mr Price was worried by this, although the boy himself did not complain about it. Several weeks later, Mr Price told Patrick Ross, the Chief Constable of the then Rochdale Police, about the matter. This approach was not as a formal complaint or request for the police to open an investigation, but solely to give Mr Ross the information.

19. In his later evidence to the Garnham Review in May 2014,[2] and his statements to Greater Manchester Police (GMP) dated 12 November 2014[3] and 26 February 2015,[4] Mr Price provided some further detail on this incident. He explained that, while corporal punishment was legal and commonplace in 1965, the description of what had happened to RO-A49 was shocking and troubling. This was because it seemed that there might be a sexual element to it and also because it was irregular and uncommon for the Secretary of the Association, rather than the houseparents, to be in charge of punishment.[5] Gail Hopper, Rochdale Borough Council’s current Director of Children’s Services, confirmed that in her view it would always have been considered unacceptable to remove a child’s clothing in order to carry out corporal punishment (albeit that 1965 predated her professional experience).[6]

20. Mr Price also explained why he spoke to Patrick Ross rather than raising the issue through other channels. He explained that even in 1965 Smith was already a very powerful and popular figure in Rochdale, both in the Council and the wider community, so any attempt to discuss the matter with the Social Services Committee or his staff would likely have got back to Smith. He trusted Mr Ross, whom he knew personally as they attended the same church.[7] Mr Price recalled that in fact he spoke to Mr Ross twice. The first occasion was a week after he saw RO-A49, and Mr Ross said he would make further enquiries.

21. A week or so later, on a Sunday afternoon, Smith visited Mr Price at his house in a disturbed and agitated state. Smith said that he was upset about accusations flying around town about his method of discipline in Cambridge House, and that there was no truth in the rumours. He stayed at Mr Price’s home for around two hours going over the same things, and made Mr Price feel very uncomfortable.[8]

22. Mr Price then saw Mr Ross two or three weeks later, after a Chief Officers’ meeting at the Town Hall, and Mr Ross told him that it had been decided to take no further action. Mr Price’s recollection is that he was surprised about this but did not ask for more detail. He speculated that Mr Ross simply had no hard evidence of any abuse by Smith, because he respected Ross as being a man of integrity.[9] In Simon Danczuk’s book, Smile for the Camera,[10] Mr Price had been quoted as saying he wondered if Mr Ross had been “leant on”. Mr Price clarified to GMP in 2015 that he did not think that at the time, it was only with hindsight, and he had no evidence to support it.[11]

23. Mr Price was still concerned enough about what he had heard from RO-A49 that he was relieved when RO-A49 and the other boys in care left the hostel and it closed down the following month in November 1965.[12]

24. In 1970, Lancashire Constabulary asked Mr Ross about the matter, but he could not remember being told about Smith. It does not appear that the police conducted any further enquiries in 1965. In the course of the 1970 investigation, Detective Superintendent Leach felt that Mr Price might be open to criticism for the way he responded to RO-A49’s information in 1965 as he did not make a record of the steps taken.[13] However, we do not consider any criticism would be fair. Child protection procedures in 1965 were not as well developed as they are today, RO-A49 had not made any complaint about what had happened, Mr Price did not know anything about the extensive further allegations that the police had uncovered by 1970, and he did provide the information he had to the police. Moreover, Cambridge House closed within a month or so of his meeting RO-A49.

25. In 2014, the Lancashire Professional Standards Department (PSD) reviewed the suggestion that Mr Ross deliberately did nothing with the information from Mr Price or was involved in a ‘cover-up’, and could find no evidence of this.[14] Assistant Chief Constable Timothy Jacques said he would not have expected Mr Ross to start any kind of investigation. He noted that Mr Price told Mr Ross about RO-A49 “for information only” and that the allegation was not highly sexual in nature, albeit it was inappropriate behaviour. Mr Jacques would expect something to be recorded and the matter followed up, but he did not go so far as to be critical of the failure to make a record in 1965, particularly because Social Services did not make a record either.[15]

26. However, Mr Price’s evidence regarding the 1965 matter demonstrates that even at that stage Cyril Smith had very extensive influence in Rochdale and was extremely popular and well known, making it difficult to question his conduct. It also shows that he was well informed and willing to attempt to persuade accusers to keep quiet.

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