Cyril Smith accuser calls for David Steel to be prosecuted | UK news

A man who says that he was sexually abused by Cyril Smith as an 11-year-old in a children’s home has said Lord Steel’s withdrawal from public life does little to acknowledge the pain of Smith’s many victims.

The former Liberal party leader Steel, 81, quit the Lib Dems and withdrew from the Lords on Tuesday after being criticised by the inquiry into child sexual abuse for failing to pass on allegations that Smith was a child abuser because it was “past history”.

“If Steel had acted in 1979, there were others who would not have gone through what I went through,” said Michael, 62. “Steel should be stripped of all of it. He shouldn’t be a Lord. I remember that children’s home every night. The abuse stays with you and you keep living it.”

Originally from Bolton but now living near Manchester, Michael said he would like to see Steel arrested and prosecuted for failing to report a criminal act.

“If the police can prosecute others for not reporting a crime, why should Steel get away with it just because he has been in the House of Lords?” he said.

Michael said he was sent to Knowl View in Rochdale in 1969, not long after the school had opened, to escape an abusive father.

He quickly learnt that Smith, a governor at the home, was a regular visitor who was given access to the boys and even had his own especially large, reinforced chair.

One evening, he was cornered by Smith in the staff room.

“He made me cry, he hurt me. He was massive and I wasn’t even four feet tall. He shouted at me and pulled me on to his knee. And then he got me to put my hand on him and stuff like that.

“If a teacher hadn’t walked in, I don’t know what would have happened. Smith stopped, and let me go. I ran off,” Michael said.

Weeks later, Michael reported Smith’s behaviour to a teacher but was beaten for complaining about a powerful local politician.

“I told a teacher because I did not understand what was happening – I didn’t understand sex or paedophiles or anything like that. I got a good hiding for it, and the teacher told me I was trying to ruin a man’s career,” Michael said.

Smith was not the only abuser at the school. David Higgins, a teacher who was later convicted of child sexual abuse, would “shower and soap down boys”, Michael said.

Tuesday’s report found that political institutions “regularly put their own reputations or political interests before child protection”.

Allegations of sexual assault by Smith had been investigated by Lancashire police in 1969 but no action was taken.

Steel said he did not ask the party to launch a formal inquiry into Smith because the alleged incidents had already been investigated by police and took place before Smith was voted in as an MP in 1972 and before he joined the Liberal party.

He later went on to pass a recommendation that Smith should receive a knighthood in 1988, which was successful.

Smith subsequently faced numerous allegations of abuse after 1979. Greater Manchester Police and the Crown Prosecution Service have conceded that Smith, who died in 2010, would have faced multiple child sex charges if he were still alive.

Michael, who gave evidence to the inquiry, said that he was moved on to other children’s homes soon after disclosing abuse at the hands of Smith.

Matt Baker, the co-author of a book that disclosed child abuse by Smith, said: “People like David Steel protected Cyril and gave him a licence to carry on abusing. That he nominated Smith for a knighthood is disgusting and only adds insult to injury. There should be no place in politics for people like Steel.”

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse criticised political groups for not acting on complaints and accused Steel of an “abdication of responsibility”.

In a statement released on Tuesday, Steel said he would “enjoy a quiet retirement away from public life” because he wanted to avoid “distress” for his family and “turmoil” for his party.

“Dealing with such cases is the IICSA’s legitimate role. I believe in the highest standards of human rights, particularly for young and vulnerable people.

“Not having secured a parliamentary scalp, I fear that I have been made a proxy for Cyril Smith,” he said.

Richard Scorer, a specialist abuse lawyer at Slater & Gordon who represents eight alleged victims of Smith, said: “This is an extraordinarily mealy-mouthed and ungracious resignation statement from Lord Steel. There is not even a hint of an apology to Smith’s victims, and in resigning Steel seeks to portray himself as the victim here, which is utterly ludicrous and shameful.”

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