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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Cambridge House, Knowl View and Rochdale Investigation Report

The Greater Manchester Police investigation 1998–99

110. There are two aspects of the Operation Cleopatra investigation by GMP in 1998–99 that should be considered in more detail as they have given rise to further suspicions that there was an attempt to cover up abuse by Cyril Smith.

111. We had read to us evidence from Detective Sergeant Vincent Hill who worked on Operation Cleopatra. He recalled being asked at some point after 20 March 1997 by Detective Superintendent Bill Roberts (by then the Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) after Detective Superintendent Stelfox moved on) to review the 1970 Lancashire Police file on Cyril Smith. He did so and then interviewed RO-A1 on 21 October 1998.[1] He also interviewed David Bartlett and he then produced a report dated 2 December 1998, which he handed to Detective Chief Superintendent Keegan.[2][3] Detective Sergeant Hill was then asked to make further enquiries in early 1999, and he interviewed both RO-A4 and RO-A68, following which he produced another report. He said that his handwritten report had a final paragraph setting out his recommendation for further action. He had been instructed not to include any recommendations, but did so anyway. However, in the typed version of the report this final paragraph was removed.[4][5]

112. This amendment to Detective Sergeant Hill’s report has, as with many other features of the police involvement with Cyril Smith, given rise to the suggestion that there was some kind of attempt to prevent further investigation. However, we have seen a copy of the original handwritten report and it simply read as follows:

“My own view is that a further investigation would be merited now that the information has been made available to Operation Cleopatra. I feel that despite current priorities for the investigation, it would be better carried out sooner rather than later in order that the police be seen to be acting expeditiously and with due concern for those involved.”[6]

113. This paragraph does not add anything material to the typed version that was submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service on 29 March 1999 and cannot have made any difference to the Advice of the BCP set out above.[7]

114. The second issue relating to Operation Cleopatra in 1998–99 is that Detective Sergeant Hill and Detective Sergeant Hough were removed from the investigation. Once again, the suggestion by Detective Sergeant Hill was that this indicated that incidents involving Cyril Smith were covered up.[8]

115. However, we had read to us evidence from Bill Roberts, who was the SIO on Operation Cleopatra at the relevant time. His opinion was that Detective Sergeant Hill was resistant to the idea of joint working with social workers, which was a key policy in Operation Cleopatra.[9][10] He also recalled that Detective Constable Hough and Detective Sergeant Hill were taken off the investigation as a result of refusing to take a social worker with them while conducting their enquiries and, in relation to Detective Sergeant Hill, submitting unnecessarily lengthy reports.[11] He was emphatically clear that there was no attempt by anyone to exert pressure on him or anyone in his team not to investigate Cyril Smith.[12]

116. We find Mr Roberts’ evidence convincing, particularly because Detective Sergeant Hill did in fact submit a report on Cyril Smith, which was sent to the Crown Prosecution Service, and there does not appear to have been any attempt to stop this. It is clear that it was the BCP’s Advice not to prosecute that led to no further action being taken against Smith in 1998 or 1999, not any pressure or undue influence from within or upon GMP. Mr Roberts’ evidence was that, in the context of a large-scale operation that involves much more recent allegations of assaults including buggery and rape, the allegations against Cyril Smith from the 1960s were not serious enough to warrant further attention,[13] and we can understand why that was a reasonable assessment by the investigation team, particularly in the light of the BCP’s Advice.

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