Police and council chiefs have said they will investigate claims of a cover-up of widespread sexual abuse said to involve the late politician Sir Cyril Smith.
The allegations were made in a book by Rochdale’s MP Simon Danczuk, who claimed the town’s former MP raped a number of young boys at a 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 politician was left free to abuse children as young as eight despite 144 complaints by victims, he and co-author Matthew Baker said.
Rochdale Council yesterday appointed a deputy high court judge to look into claims that sexual or physical abuse of children took place at premises owned, managed, operated or funded by the council from 1961 to 1995.
He will also look into the activities of council officers or employees, councillors and council-appointed school governors who were involved with those premises.
During the 1960s, Sir Cyril – when he was a local councillor in the town – acted as a governor for several schools and was active on many council committees involving youth activities.
Neil Garnham QC has been tasked by the council to identify whether there was a pattern to such abuse, whether it was “tolerated, facilitated or promoted by the council or its officers and staff”, and whether there was a culture at the council which “inhibited the proper investigation, exposure and prevention of such abuse”.
Any evidence of criminal activity uncovered will be passed to Greater Manchester Police (GMP) which is currently investigating historical allegations of abuse at Knowl View School – where Smith was said to have held a set of keys and where he served as a governor and later as chairman of governors.
It is understood a total of nine people have so far come forward to the police, to say they were abused by adults at Knowl View from the 1970s onwards. The complaints related to at least 11 potential suspects.
The fresh investigation into Knowl View – which closed in 1992 – began at the end of 2012 but as yet no arrests have been made.
It followed GMP’s announcement that Sir Cyril abused young boys in the 1960s in his role as secretary of the Rochdale Hostel for Boys Association. He had been accused of abusing eight youngsters at Cambridge Hostel in the town by spanking and touching them.
Three separate files regarding Sir Cyril’s actions at Cambridge House were passed to the director of public prosecutions and the Crown Prosecution Service, however no prosecution was pursued.
Speaking at a press conference at Rochdale Town Hall, GMP chief constable Sir Peter Fahy said: “There are a significant number of people we are trying to trace, obviously made more difficult by the passage of time.
“But we are determined to do a very thorough investigation and obviously when we are carrying out investigations into abuse at institutions, clearly we look at the liability of those who may have been running those institutions.”
Referring to the cover-up allegations, he said: “Given the degree of public speculation around this book and the allegations made in it, we think it would be strange if we did not look at that and carry out a review as to whether that justified a wider criminal investigation.”
Sir Cyril was not mentioned but both Sir Peter and council leader Councillor Colin Lambert referred to Mr Danczuk’s book as the reason why they were widening their investigations.
In the book, a former social worker repeats his claims that in 1994 he discovered a report made three years earlier by an HIV prevention officer who warned that boys aged eight to 16 at Knowl View were at risk of Aids infection.