Police have acknowledged for the first time that the late politician Cyril Smith sexually and physically abused young boys in the 1960s.
Both Greater Manchester Police (GMP) and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said that if Smith had been accused today he would be charged and prosecuted.
Smith, who was elected to Parliament in 1972, was dogged by rumours of abuse throughout his career but charges were never brought.
GMP said three separate files on Smith were passed to the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Crown Prosecution Service, but no action was pursued.
Smith was secretary of the Rochdale Hostel for Boys’ Association, where he was accused of abusing vulnerable youngsters by spanking and touching them.
GMP has been looking at cases which date back to 1974 – when the force was created – and any before that were investigated by Lancashire Police.
Smith, who died in 2010, served as a politician for 20 years before retiring.
Assistant Chief Constable Steve Heywood said: “We are now in a position to say that on three separate occasions, files were passed to first the DPP and then the CPS containing details of abuse committed by Smith, but on each occasion no prosecution was pursued.
“Having now reviewed those decisions, we believe that if the same evidence was presented to the CPS today there would have been a very realistic prospect that Smith would have been charged with a number of indecent assaults, and that the case would have been brought to trial.
“Clearly that is a bold statement to make but it is absolutely important for those victims who were abused by Smith that we publicly acknowledge the suffering they endured. Although Smith cannot be charged or convicted posthumously, from the overwhelming evidence we have it is right and proper we should publicly recognise that young boys were sexually and physically abused and we will offer them as much support as they need should they wish to speak to us.”
Nazir Afzal, Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS North West, confirmed a file was handed to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Sir Norman Skelhorn in 1970, which contained allegations made by eight men that they had been subjected to indecent assaults by Smith as teenagers.
But the then DPP wrote back to the Lancashire Constabulary advising against a prosecution. “Any charges of indecent assault founded on these allegations, as well as being somewhat stale, would be, in my view, completely without corroboration,” Sir Norman wrote.