Liberal party officials tried to bribe two local activists who witnessed the late Liberal MP Cyril Smith grope a teenage boy, in a bid to cover up the abuse, Labour MP Simon Danczuk has claimed.
The boy, who was 14 at the time, was groped by Smith at a Liberal activist’s Manchester flat in 1979, when it was being used as the campaign headquarters for the local byelection, according to Danczuk’s account of the incident.
Writing in Saturday’s Daily Mail, the Labour MP for Rochdale said the two activists, a teacher and a retired policeman, contacted both the regional party office and also spoke to the office of David Steel, the then Liberal leader, about the alleged abuse.
A few days later, a party organiser offered to give the activists, who were husband and wife, £200 in “expenses” to cover any “inconvenience” they had suffered over the incident. The couple, who reported the matter to the police, rejected the money and stopped their involvement with the party.
Danczuk, who has co-authored a book on Smith, said the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, had refused his call to hold a proper investigation into who covered up Smith’s abuse. Clegg said last May that no political party could do justice to the breadth and scope of the allegations against Smith.
Danczuk said the Liberal Democrat leader’s refusal was “a sad indictment of politics”. He said: “With everything [Smith] took from politics with the Liberal party, you would have thought that the current leader of the party would have wanted to examine why his party got it so wrong, and whether they’re capable of getting it wrong again.”
Police say they now believe that Smith was a prolific abuser of boys and should have been charged with crimes more than 40 years ago.
A Liberal Democrat spokesman added: “There are two police investigations underway into his actions, as well as the Independent Panel Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse under Justice Lowell Goddard.”
“The horrific actions of Cyril Smith represent very serious criminal offences and as such it would not be right for them to be investigated by a political party.”
Northamptonshire police are investigating claims that Smith was arrested after being caught with child abuse images in his car but released after making a phone call.
Danczuk said Greater Manchester police had improved their handling of child abuse complaints, but he added this might not be true of all forces. He said: “I suspect that there are some forces that still need to make that change and that still haven’t caught up.”
He added that mandatory reporting of sexual abuse was necessary to ensure that such cases are not covered up.
This article was written by Rebecca Ratcliffe, for theguardian.com on Saturday 4th April 2015 12.26 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010