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Tribunal orders release of details on prosecution decision made about Cyril Smith MP

A Freedom of Information request means that previously withheld information can now be seen

9 June 2014

A Tribunal, led by Judge Chris Hughes, has ordered the Crown Prosecution Service to release details about the decision it made not to prosecute the former MP Cyril Smith for alleged abuse offences.

A journalist Jonathan Corke originally made a Freedom of Information request to see the CPS files in 2010 but was refused permission to see the documents.  This decision was upheld by the Information Commissioner (IC).

The IC turned down the request to release the files in April 2013 saying that the information related to criminal proceedings, and was an unfair disclosure of victims' personal data.

A number of men allege that they were abused by Cyril Smith as a residential school, Knowl View in Rochdale, in the 1970s and 1980s. 

The information at the centre of the disclosure dispute consists of two notes prepared by at CPS lawyer in 1970, and examined the evidence, the changing approach to the investigation and prosecution of abuse crimes between 1970 and 1998, and whether a prosecution could be brought in 1998.

A second note contained details of more allegations, and the names of the people making the accusations.

Judge Hughes ruled the commissioner had "undervalued the professionalism and rigour of CPS lawyers" when giving advice on whether or not to prosecute.

The tribunal called the files "significant historical documents" and said they "illuminate the character and actions of a significant public figure".

It concluded that the balance of public interests was "in favour of disclosure".

Abuse lawyer Emma Jones says:

“I welcome the Tribunal’s decision to order the disclosure of these files.  Documentary evidence should be open and honest and fully transparent, whatever the nature of the allegations or topic being discussed.”

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