Cyril Smith child abuse probe ‘scrapped after his arrest’

Cyril Smith child abuse probe ‘scrapped after his arrest’

Monday 16 Th March, 2015

According to a former officer, police were told to hand over all their evidence, as Nick Hopkins reports

An undercover police operation that gathered evidence of child abuse by Cyril Smith and other public figures was scrapped shortly after the MP was arrested, BBC Newsnight has been told.

The Liberal MP, who died in 2010, was held during a 1980s probe into alleged sex parties with teenage boys in south London, a source told the programme.

He was allegedly released within hours of being taken to a police station.

The Met is looking into the handling of historical child sex abuse cases.

The force would not comment on the details of the allegations about Smith put to them by Newsnight.

A spokesman said it was “investigating allegations that police officers acted inappropriately in relation to non-recent child abuse investigations” however, and asked for anyone with information to come forward.

‘Secrets act’ warning

Information has been passed to Newsnight by a former officer, who is familiar with the original investigation and its closure.

The order to scrap the probe, made after Smith and others had been arrested, came from a senior officer whom the undercover team had never met before, according to the source.

Officers were then ordered to hand over all their evidence – including notebooks and video footage – and were warned to keep quiet about the investigation or face prosecution under the Official Secrets Act, it is claimed.

Newsnight has been told the intelligence-led operation is believed to have started in 1981.

It involved a team of undercover regional crime squad officers, including some from Yorkshire who were based in London for the secret inquiry.

Coronation buildingsPart of the early 1980s investigation focused on Coronation Buildings in Lambeth

The detectives were stationed at Gilmour House, a large police headquarters building in Kennington, south London.

The team allegedly targeted six or more addresses in the south of the capital. One focus was a flat in Coronation Buildings, Lambeth – a run-down tenement block less than a mile from the House of Commons.

During a three-month inquiry, officers working in shifts gathered a substantial amount of evidence of men abusing boys aged around 14, the BBC has been told.

That evidence included pictures and video taken from inside the flat, as a hidden camera had been installed with the help of a caretaker.

Smith is said to have been one of those caught on camera, another being a senior member of Britain’s intelligence agencies.

According to an account given to the BBC, Smith was later seized at a property in Streatham, south London, where he had reportedly been taking part in a sex party with teenage boys.

It is understood he was taken to the former Cannon Row police station – which is opposite the House of Commons.

But it was claimed he was released that night and a duty sergeant who wanted to keep him in custody was reprimanded.

scotland yard reuThe Met says it is “investigating allegations that police officers acted inappropriately in relation to non-recent child abuse investigations”

The BBC has been told that as well as Smith and the member of the intelligence agencies, the undercover team also had evidence on two senior police officers.

The squad believed that boys from care homes were being provided “to order” for sex parties, but the inquiry was abruptly shelved, the BBC has been told.

The team was called together at Gilmour House and told by a senior officer – whom they had never met before – to hand over their notebooks, photographs and video footage.

They were read passages from the Official Secrets Act to deter them from speaking out, according to one account.

There was a row at the police building but the inquiry was closed and officers were assured Smith “would not be playing a role in public life any more”. In fact, he continued as MP for Rochdale until 1992.

Newsnight’s source spoke to the programme through an intermediary and is fearful of repercussions because of the scale of the alleged cover-up.

The BBC first approached the Met about the claims in January, but the force has refused to be drawn into providing details on any live inquiry.

Simon Danczuk, the Labour MP who has worked to expose Cyril Smith as a prolific paedophile, said: “Time and again what we have learned more recently is that a number of police officers investigated Smith, up and down the country, and those investigations were quashed and officers were told to stop investigating.

“It is my view that Smith was being protected and being protected by some fairly powerful people.

“He was protected because he knew of other paedophiles in the networks in which he operated and had he been prosecuted, then I think those other people would have been named by Smith and that’s why they ensured that he was never put before the courts.”


Labour MP Simon Danczuk has investigated child abuse by Cyril Smith

Newsnight asked former Scotland Yard detective Clive Driscoll, who investigated claims of child abuse in Lambeth in the 1980s and 1990s, to examine the allegations.

“I looked at them as I probably would have done when I was a police officer and, on the balance of probabilities, you would have to say they appear very credible,” said Mr Driscoll, the officer whose inquiry led to the conviction of Stephen Lawrence’s killers.

‘Things to hide’

“Certainly the timing and the type of allegations that are made are ones that the Met would take very, very seriously.”

He described the claimed as “very credible and very frightening”.

“If you take all of the information that appears to be out there together it does look like collusion with police officers and other agencies to prevent what is a straightforward criminal case,” he added.

Labour MP John Mann, who was also a councillor in Lambeth in the 1980s, said of the allegations: “It tells me the cloak of secrecy needs to be taken away but also suggests that there were people with things to hide at the time.

“For whatever reason, whatever judgement was made, there was a cover-up at the time. I don’t know why, but it has happened time and again looking at these historic sex abuse cases and prominent people that files disappeared.”

Watch Nick Hopkins’s report on Newsnight or on BBC iPlayer.

CREDIT: BBC Newsnight

Mun Repoter more on Cyril Smith MP

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