Abuse panel not obliged to make 'specific findings against Cyril Smith'

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The far-reaching child sexual abuse inquiry will not require "specific findings" into allegations against late politician Cyril Smith, its counsel said.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) will probe how the former Liberal MP was able to "target" boys in Rochdale institutions despite knowledge of his alleged offending.

Smith, who died in 2010, is suspected of sexually abusing children at Knowl View school in Rochdale and Cambridge House Boys' Hostel.

The two institutions, where for decades children were placed in care under the guidance of Rochdale Borough Council, are currently being examined by the IICSA.

Lead counsel to the inquiry Brian Altman QC told a preliminary hearing their work would focus on the authorities' response to claims against Smith, rather than specific offending.

Referring to the scope of the inquiry, he said: "What that does not require is that the panel makes specific findings against Cyril Smith.

"Counsel for the inquiry submits that the same approach which has been taken in the investigation into the late Lord Janner is apt to the instant investigation and that findings of fact as to whether an individual may have sexually abused children may be appropriate but only where such findings first are relevant to the discharge of the inquiry's overall terms of reference."

He added this was partly informed by the "inability of Cyril Smith to respond to those allegations".

The suitability of Cambridge House, as an adult accommodation, for housing potentially vulnerable children will also be called into question.

"What the inquiry is interested in this regard is the extent to which a public figure like Cyril Smith may have been able to target young men who lived there, the reasons why he may have gone unchecked and how he was able to remain at the centre of public life in Rochdale despite awareness of the part of some of the allegations against him," Mr Altman said.

"The Inquiry will consider as part of that the police investigations into Cyril Smith and why they didn't result in him being prosecuted."

Smith's role in Rochdale Borough Council, where he was active on many committees involving youth activities, while an investigation into his behaviour was under way in 1969 to 1970 was said to be another point of interest.

The inquiry will examine how the local political parties responded to him during this time, Mr Altman added.

The Rochdale arm of the inquiry is one of 13 areas of public life being scrutinised for child protection failings, ranging from the army to the Roman Catholic Church.

Smith acted as a governor for several schools in the town, including Knowl View.

His career was dogged by rumours he had abused children but charges were never brought.

Both the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and Greater Manchester Police (GMP) said in 2012 Smith would have faced prosecution if the allegations had been made then.

Accusations about potential abuse by Smith in Westminster will covered in a separate strand of the inquiry, Mr Altman said.

Public evidence hearings for the Rochdale investigation will begin in October.