Sunday, November 16, 2014

Senior Lib Dem ‘ordered destruction of document on Cyril Smith abuse claims

via The Guardian:

A senior Liberal Democrat has been accused of ordering a personal assistant to destroy a document containing allegations of abuse and mismanagement against the late paedophile MP Cyril Smith. Liz Lynne, who is standing to become the party’s president, is alleged to have told her constituency aide to get rid of a document detailing a cover-up at the Knowl View children’s home in Rochdale, which closed in the mid-1990s. A manager at the home has also accused her of avoiding a meeting to discuss claims that Smith knew about the child abuse taking place at the home and had taken control of it...Deborah Doyle, who worked for Lynne between September 1995 and May 1997, said she took three or four pages of notes from a long telephone conversation with Digan in 1996. Digan had contacted Lynne’s office in Rochdale as claims of widespread abuse had begun to emerge at the Knowl View home, where boys as young as 10 had been raped. The first questions were also being raised publicly about Smith’s role in the school.

Doyles says Digan told her over the telephone that Smith knew of abuse at the school and gave details of a cover-up at the institution and the local authority. She says she told Lynne, who had been on holiday when Digan called, about the allegation, but that Lynne said she did not want to meet Digan. “I was surprised when Lynne said to me: ‘Don’t put the notes in the bin. Destroy them’,” Doyle said...Doyle said she came to work for Lynne in 1995 on the recommendation of Chris Davies, the former Liberal Democrat MP and MEP. Doyle had become involved in Lib Dem politics in the north-west, and had friends in the party. When she was first offered a job in Lynne’s office, she had to be personally approved by Smith in an interview, she said.

“It was like the 1950s. Everything had to go through Cyril, but he wasn’t even a councillor,” Doyle said.
There were tensions between Lynne and Smith, she said, but Lynne was careful not to anger him. “He would have very happily told someone to their face that he didn’t like them. That is the way he was,” she said. But Smith still wielded power, especially regarding fundraising, she added. “For the 1997 election, he just went off and got £40,000, just like that. I didn’t know where it came from,” she said. It was only when she saw a Dispatches documentary about Smith in 2013 that Doyle again considered her conversations with Digan and Lynne, she said.

She found her 1997 Filofax, and in her notes were Digan’s name and telephone number. She called Greater Manchester police’s helpline to tell them about her encounter with Digan and her subsequent conversation with Lynne. “I told them about it. I don’t know if they have followed it up,” she said. Doyle, 53, a book-keeper, says that she has nothing against Lynne, but has decided to speak out because victims have gone through much more and been brave enough to go on the record. “Liz is essentially a good person. I am sure that if she had been forced to look into these allegations, she would have been horrified … but at the end of the day she ia politician and may not have felt comfortable taking on Smith,” she said.

Digan, a social worker, was responsible for passing a dossier of evidence to the police which eventually saw the school closed in the 1990s. He said last week that he had approached Lynne’s office hoping to discuss suspicions at the way Smith and others had wished to take the school out of local authority control. He also had concerns that Smith had his own set of keys to the school and wanted to seek help for the boys who had been abused. A constituent of Lynne’s at the time, Digan said he called her office and had a long conversation with her personal assistant about Smith. “I had a good rapport with the PA. We spoke, she took down what I said. Then I heard nothing,” he said. He said he called Lynne’s office again some weeks later, on the off-chance of finding out if he could talk to someone else about the school. This time, Lynne answered the telephone. “I arranged to go and meet her in an office, but someone from her office cancelled it the day before it was due to take place,” he said. “She never got back to me. The shame is that many abuse victims could have been helped if Lynne and many others had taken the abuse at Knowl View seriously at that point.”