Skip to main content

0800 917 1000   Open weekdays 9am-5pm

IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Cambridge House, Knowl View and Rochdale Investigation Report

Cyril Smith

11. While Cyril Smith is not the exclusive focus of this report nor indeed central to the events as provided in the evidence heard during the investigation, he was nonetheless the starting point for the investigation. He was a prominent and influential local figure who was central to local politics for many years. Following his election to Parliament, Smith cultivated an image of himself very much as a man of Rochdale who stood somewhat outside the machinery of Westminster (perhaps best demonstrated by his arriving at Westminster for the first time, following his election, with a train carriage of his local supporters).

12. His entry into local politics was early, and it dominated his life (earning him the moniker ‘Mr Rochdale’). As a member of the Labour Party, Smith became a councillor in Rochdale in 1952 when he was 23 years old; he was the youngest councillor to have been elected in Rochdale. When he was appointed Mayor of Rochdale in 1966, his mother was his Lady Mayoress. Later, in 1966, Smith rejoined the Liberal Party (having been a member prior to 1950). When a by-election occurred in 1972, he was the Liberal candidate and duly won the seat. He was knighted in 1988. He remained the Member of Parliament for Rochdale until his retirement from Parliament in 1992. He died on 3 September 2010.

13. The investigation has examined Lancashire Constabulary’s investigation of allegations made by eight men that Smith had indecently assaulted them as teenagers between around 1961 and 1966; six of them had been living in Cambridge House Hostel in Rochdale, a residential establishment for boys that Smith had been involved in setting up. The allegations were similar in nature; the assaults were allegedly committed during purported ‘medical examinations’ or punishment for misbehaviour.

14. A file was sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions, Sir Norman Skelhorn, in March 1970 but the advice was not to prosecute. That advice was reviewed by the Crown Prosecution Service in 1998 and again in 1999 when two further complainants were identified. Neither review led to Smith being charged and prosecuted. In a public statement made in 2012, the Crown Prosecution Service said that the decision made in 1970 would not be made today. The Crown Prosecution Service reviewed its 1998 and 1999 reviews in 2012, finding the advice that had been previously given could not be faulted (given the law and guidance in place at the time).

15. The investigation has considered the decision making by the Director of Public Prosecutions in 1970 and by the Crown Prosecution Service in 1998 and 1999 in order to see, in particular, if there were any evidence of establishment cover-up, undue deference towards Smith or misapplication of the legal principles that existed at the times the decisions were made.

16. Cyril Smith was directly involved in bringing Cambridge House Hostel into existence and he was involved in the establishment of Knowl View School. He appeared at the outset of the investigation to have involved himself in educational matters in Rochdale generally, and is understood to have served as a governor at some 29 or 30 schools.

17. The investigation has sought to understand whether this was a demonstration of a high profile local politician orchestrating access to children and whether, by dint of his position, Smith was able to secure inappropriate contact with children. Of interest to the investigation has been what people knew of Smith at the time, whether they were suspicious of him and, if they were, why they did not act on those suspicions. Implicit in this is the question whether, by virtue of the power he yielded locally, Smith was able to sexually abuse children. A central question is whether the coming to light of allegations made in the Rochdale Alternative Paper in 1979 prompted changes in attitude towards him or to the access that he had to children, or indeed whether consideration was even given to the risk he might pose to children.

18. This investigation has focused on Cyril Smith as a Rochdale politician and public figure. The investigation report does not consider any conduct by Smith alleged to have occurred in Westminster or elsewhere unless it directly relates to events in Rochdale.

Back to top