David Steel’s failure to recognise he should have acted on child sexual abuse allegations about Cyril Smith is a ‘tragedy’ according to the director of a child sexual abuse charity.
The former Liberal leader admitted to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse that the Rochdale MP had not denied abusing children to him when asked in 1979.
He has since been suspended from the party that he led from 1976 until its merger with the Social Democrat Party in 1988.
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Stop It Now director Donald Findlater told talkRADIO’s Matthew Wright he found Lord Steel’s testimony “shocking”.
He said: “He was aware directly from Cyril Smith himself, yet knowing that he chose not to respond to it or feel the Smith was unsuitable to be in the party or an MP.
“The real tragedy is seeing a serious former leader of a political party who still does not seem to understand not only the gross harm of sexual abuse but also that those who abuse need to be seen as a continuing risk.”
Lord Steel told the inquiry it did not occur to him to pass on Smith’s confession as the alleged abuse dated to before Smith was a Liberal MP.
'We all need to take responsibility'
The CPS admitted in 2012 that Smith should have been charged for child sex abuse before his death in 2010.
Mr Findlater welcomed Lord Steel’s suspension by the Liberal Demcrats and hoped it would serve as lesson to political leaders going forward.
He added: “We can look at Cyril Smith and David Steel and be appalled but people today are taking the same decision.
“We all need to take responsibility and recognise that child abuse is a serious social problem and we can all do something about it.
“I hope there is learning for the Liberal Democrats and other politicians and this will be a lesson to other leaders as well so other leaders do not shelter abuse or abusers.”