Hearings into child sex abuse claims against Sir Cyril Smith to begin next year

Hearings into allegations of child sex abuse against Sir Cyril Smith will not begin until the middle of next year.

Ben Emmerson QC, counsel to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse chaired by Dame Lowell Goddard, said the investigation into the former Liberal MP would not begin until after claims against Lord Greville Janner had been aired.

Mr Emmerson told a preliminary hearing of the inquiry at the Royal Courts of Justice in London: “Hearings should be able to commence soon after the hearings into Lord Janner.”

On Tuesday, the inquiry heard that the investigation into the claims against Lord Janner had been delayed until March 7 because of “two significant changes of circumstances” since a preliminary hearing earlier this year.

Lord Janner, who died aged 87 in December, is alleged to have abused children over a period of 30 years, with offences said to have taken place in children’s homes and hotels.

The claims – which are denied by Lord Janner’s lawyers – were originally due to be aired in September.

An examination of claims linked to Lord Janner is one of 13 investigations launched by the public inquiry, which is set to last for five years.

Allegations that Sir Cyril, who died in 2010, was involved in the sexual abuse of children at Knowl View school in Rochdale will also be investigated by the inquiry.

He is said to have been a key player in setting up the residential school for boys in the 1960s.

The inquiry has requested social services records and full copies of police files on Sir Cyril.

It has also made further disclosure requests to Rochdale Council.

Mr Emmerson said that the inquiry was well advanced and that requests for statements were likely to begin next month.

The inquiry is also investigating allegations of abuse related to children under the care of Lambeth Council.

Mr Emmerson said that more than 5,000 documents from Lambeth Council’s Children’s Homes in Lambeth Enquiry (Chile), which ran between 1998 and 2003, had been received.

The inquiry took evidence from individuals who had been in Lambeth’s care, which Mr Emmerson said was very valuable to the new investigations.

An analysis of the evidence will focus on six questions, including the extent to which children were sexually abused while in care and whether the council put children at risk of sexual abuse.

Mr Emmerson said that the “sheer volume” of material released by the council underscored the vastness of the task being undertaken by the inquiry.

Preliminary hearings will continue on Thursday into the Roman Catholic Church and Protection of Children Outside the UK.

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