A criminal investigation is to be launched into an alleged cover-up of child abuse at a school linked to Sir Cyril Smith. The Liberal politician, who died in 2010, is alleged to have used his status to sexually abuse young boys with impunity at Knowl View School in Rochdale. Despite numerous previous allegations and past police investigations Smith and other suspects have never been prosecuted.
A separate investigation is on-going to identify suspects who actually took part in the alleged sexual abuse. Now police say they are to investigate alleged corruption by its own officers and local politicians as part of a cover-up of what was going on at the time. The inquiry has been sparked by Labour's Rochdale MP Simon Danczuk who claimed in a recently published book that Smith, the town's former Liberal MP, raped a number of young boys at the residential school.
Police, spies and politicians helped to hide the historical child abuse carried out by Smith, according to Mr Danczuk's book, Smile For The Camera: The Double Life Of Cyril Smith. The 29-stone politician was left free to abuse children as young as eight despite 144 complaints by victims, Mr Danczuk and co-author Matthew Baker said.
Today Assistant Chief Constable Ian Wiggett from Greater Manchester Police (GMP), said: "Following the publication of MP Simon Danzcuk's book 'Smile for the Camera', GMP conducted an assessment of the allegations contained within that book. As a result of the assessment, GMP decided that a criminal investigation was required.
"The GMP investigation will now seek to identify whether any offences have been committed in the way that previous reports of abuse were handled or allegedly covered up. The main concerns relate to the response to child abuse over several decades connected to Knowl View School in Rochdale.
"We have consulted with the Home Office in relation to the national inquiry that has been announced into how organisations responded to child abuse, but as these matters relate to criminal allegations in the GMP area, the responsibility to investigate them falls to the Chief Constable.
"We are aware that some of the allegations relate to the past involvement of police officers, and therefore we have referred those matters to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). In addition, we have established an independent oversight panel to demonstrate the independence and rigour of the investigation that we will be conducting. If there are further allegations that relate to the conduct of police officers, these will similarly be referred to the IPCC, as we are required to do."
Mr Danczuk said: "I welcome the fact that GMP are taking what's in our book seriously. It is clear to me that crimes have been committed, though I hope the police will prioritise the arrests of abusers who are still alive over whether council officers covered this up. That is what the victims have told me is their priority. They want to see those who inflicted terrible abuse on innocent children brought to justice."
Fourteen suspects have been questioned as part of the sexual abuse inquiry into Knowl View School, relating to alleged offences committed between 1969 and 1990. The claims relate to alleged abuse of pupils by adults at the residential school, but also among the boys themselves.