Cyril Smith abused kids for ‘perverted amusement’ & MI5 may have covered it up, inquiry told
The late Liberal Party politician Sir Cyril Smith treated a children’s home as his “personal fiefdom” where he abused residents for “perverted amusement,” an inquiry has heard, as it is claimed top-level officials lied to protect him from prosecution.
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) is examining how Smith was able to carry out his alleged offences at a number of institutions, including the Cambridge House children’s hostel and Knowl View residential school, of which he was a governor.
Laura Hoyano, representing eight alleged victims, said at the second day of the hearing on Tuesday that the late Liberal MP was a “puppet master” who escaped justice, according to the BBC.
She said MI5 intelligence on the allegations “raises a spectre of collusion” over his activities. A dossier of information held by MI5 on Smith, including claims that prosecutors had lied to the press about the existence of a Smith child abuse file, was disclosed to the hearing on Monday.
Hoyano asked in her opening statement to the inquiry: “Why was MI5 involved at all?”
Documents show then-Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Sir Thomas Hetherington admitted to MI5 his office had falsely told journalists that they had no record of a police file of evidence against the politician.
In reality prosecutors had been given a file by detectives in 1970, saying the “sordid” allegations against Smith “stand up,” but chose not to take him to trial.
Hoyano questioned whether “political pressure brought to bear upon the DPP from politicians and members of the Liberal Party” led to no charges ever being laid.
“Why would Sir Thomas Hetherington decide he should lie to journalists, stating that he had not submitted a prosecution file?
“There is also a reference in the covering letter to another child sexual abuse investigation into Cyril Smith by the Metropolitan Police in the mid-1970s. Again, why would MI5 hold that information? Why was MI5 involved at all?
“We say this dossier from MI5 raises a spectre of collusion.”
In 1988, when Smith was knighted, then-PM Margaret Thatcher had probably been informed of his chequered past, the inquiry was told.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), formed in 1986, has criticized “some elements” of a decision by Hetherington not to press sexual abuse charges against Smith in 1970.
In an opening statement for the CPS to the inquiry, Edward Brown QC said changes in the law relating to evidence in child sexual abuses cases in the intervening years could explain the decision not to prosecute Smith.
Brown said that until 1995, the law required such allegations to be supported by other evidence in addition to the claims themselves.
The inquiry continues.