Claims of a deal to hush up abuse are ‘to­tal fantasy’

Rochdale Observer - - CHILD SEX ABUSE INQUIRY - Paul.brit­ton@men-news.co.uk @PaulBrit­tonMEN

AFORMER Rochdale MP has dis­missed as ‘to­tal fantasy’ claims that dis­graced Cyril Smith or­ches­trated a deal be­tween Labour and the Lib­eral Party to hush up al­le­ga­tions that he abused boys at a res­i­den­tial school.

Paul Rowen – Rochdale’s MP be­tween 2005 and 2010 – was giv­ing ev­i­dence at the In­de­pen­dent In­quiry into Child Sex­ual Abuse.

The in­quiry in Lon­don is ex­am­in­ing al­le­ga­tions of abuse at the for­mer Knowl View res­i­den­tial school in Rochdale and Cambridge House Hos­tel, a pri­vately-run care home for boys.

Claims of a ‘pact’ be­tween the po­lit­i­cal par­ties sur­faced at the in­quiry when ex-Knowl View so­cial worker Martin Dig­nan claimed Smith, who died in 2010, had threat­ened to ex­pose an­other politi­cian.

Mr Rowen was asked about the pact at the in­quiry - ‘that the Labour Party wouldn’t men­tion ru­mours about Smith if the Lib­eral Party didn’t men­tion ru­mours about a dif­fer­ent politi­cian’.

He said: “I be­came aware of that a few years ago. It is to­tal fantasy. Let’s be very clear.

“Un­for­tu­nately, Jim Dob­bin [the for­mer Hey­wood and Mid­dle­ton Labour MP who died in 2014] is not with us, but I’m sure if he was he would say ex­actly the same as me. To me, as I say, it is to­tal fantasy.”

Mr Rowen was a Lib­eral Party coun­cil­lor in the Brim­rod and Deeplish ward in Rochdale be­tween 1983 and 2007.

He be­came leader of the coun­cil in 1992, serv­ing in that role un­til 1996 and be­came the town’s MP in 2005. He lost his seat to Si­mon Danczuk in 2010.

Mr Rowen told the in­quiry that he first got to know Smith as a teenager through cam­paign­ing for him in the 1972 by-elec­tion, sparked by the death of Rochdale’s sit­ting MP.

Smith, Mr Rowen said, was ‘al­ways’ go­ing to stand as the party’s can­di­date.

He said there was no dis­cus­sion over his selec­tion be­cause ‘as far as most peo­ple were con­cerned, he was Mr Rochdale’, and said he found Smith ‘quite friendly’.

Asked if over the course of years he dis­cov­ered Smith ‘had a dif­fer­ent side to his per­son­al­ity’, Mr Rowen replied: “I knew noth­ing about the al­le­ga­tions that have been made since.” ●●For­mer Rochdale MP Cyril Smith is al­leged to have sex­u­ally abused young boys at Knowl View School and Cambridge House Hos­tel

‘I knew noth­ing about the al­le­ga­tions’

He said he first be­came aware of ru­mours re­gard­ing Smith’s ‘un­healthy in­ter­est in young boys’ in 1979 fol­low­ing al­le­ga­tions printed in the pub­li­ca­tion Rochdale’s Al­ter­na­tive Paper.

Mr Rowen said he was told Smith de­nied the al­le­ga­tions.

He said he knew Smith be­lieved in cor­po­ral and cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment and said he had ‘claimed that it was just that he had to sort some boys out who needed sort­ing out’.

By the time Mr Rowen be­came more in­volved in the party in later years, he said: “It was not an is­sue that was ever raised with me, for ex­am­ple, in all the time I was leader of the Lib­eral Demo­crat group or leader of the coun­cil. That was never an is­sue any­body raised.”

Smith served as Rochdale MP from 1972-1992 be­fore his death aged 82.

The na­tional in­quiry is ex­am­in­ing how he and oth­ers were able to al­legedly prey on young boys at Cambridge House hos­tel and Knowl View.

The hear­ings in Lon­don are ex­pected to con­clude next Fri­day, with clos­ing state­ments from coun­sel to in­quiry and coun­sel for par­tic­i­pants.

●●An in­quiry in Lon­don is ex­am­in­ing al­le­ga­tions of abuse at Knowl View and Cambridge House. In­set, for­mer MP Paul Rowen

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