Sir Cyril Smith, MBE (28 June 1928 – 3 September 2010) was a British Liberal Member of Parliament (MP) for Rochdale. After his death, numerous allegations of child sexual abuse by Smith emerged (including many made during his lifetime), leading the police to believe that Smith was a serial sex offender.
Smith was first active in local politics as a Liberal in 1945 before switching to Labour in 1950; he served as a Labour councillor in Rochdale from 1950 and became mayor in 1966. He subsequently switched parties again and entered Parliament as a Liberal in 1972 and won his Rochdale seat on five further occasions. Smith was appointed the Liberal Chief Whip in June 1975 but later resigned on health grounds. In his later years as an MP, Smith opposed an alliance with the Social Democratic Party and did not stand for re-election in 1992, but remained loyal to the Liberal Democrats upon the parties' merger. Throughout much of his career, he maintained a high profile in the media, and became a popular public figure.
In later years, his popularity was considerably marred by the allegation that he had been involved in a cover-up of a health risk at a local asbestos factory. In 2008, there were calls for Smith to be stripped of his knighthood after it was revealed that he had asked the asbestos company Turner & Newall to prepare a speech for him in 1981, in which he declared: "the public at large are not at risk from asbestos". It was later revealed that Smith owned 1,300 shares in the company. In 2008 he said that 4,000 asbestos-related deaths a year in the UK was "relatively low".
In 2012, following allegations of child abuse, the Crown Prosecution Service formally admitted Smith should have been charged with the sexual abuse of boys during his lifetime. Greater Manchester Police (GMP) said the boys "were victims of physical and sexual abuse" by Smith. In November 2012, GMP Assistant Chief Constable Steve Heywood said there was "overwhelming evidence" that young boys were sexually and physically abused by Smith. In April 2014, it was reported that there had been 144 complaints against Smith from victims as young as eight, but attempts to prosecute him had always been blocked. Public authorities including Rochdale Council, the police and intelligence services have been implicated in covering up Smith's crimes. In 2015, it emerged that Smith had been arrested in the early 1980s in relation to these offences, but a high level cover-up reportedly led to him being released within hours, the evidence destroyed and the investigating officers prevented from discussing the matter under the Official Secrets Act. Wikipedia