Lord Steel brands Cyril Smith child abuse allegations as ‘scurrilous hearsay’

Child abuse allegations against Cyril Smith are “scurrilous hearsay”, former Liberal leader Lord Steel has said.

The peer said “nothing has been proved” yet about the late MP and warned against “tittle-tattle”.

Smith allegedly raped boys at Rochdale’s Knowl View residential school, which closed in 1992, and abused boys at the privately-run Cambridge House children’s care home, which closed in 1965.

A “valuable opportunity” was missed to prosecute Smith during his lifetime in the late 1990s, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse found.

Smith, who died in 2010 aged 82, was originally a Labour councillor in Rochdale and later a Liberal then Liberal Democrat MP for the town from 1972 to 1992.

Lord Steel led the Liberal Party between 1976 and 1988.

He told BBC Two’s Newsnight: “It’s all been scurrilous hearsay and, so far, we are waiting for the final outcome of the inquiry.

“So, it’s wrong to categorise him in that way.”

Asked if he believed Mr Smith was guilty of abuse, he said he did not know.

“I don’t think it’s right to suddenly say that he was just because of tittle-tattle,” the peer added.

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