David Steel’s evidence to the Independent Inquiry on Child Sexual Abuse suggests that he should not just be suspended from the Liberal Democrats, but should be arrested and tried as an accessory.
He told the inquiry Smith admitted committing the crimes to him in 1979. Lord Steel would have to take joint responsibility for any further crimes, as he had been in a position to prevent them from happening and did nothing.
Lord Steel said he asked Smith in 1979 about claims he abused boys at a Rochdale hostel in the 1960s, and came away from the conversation “assuming” that Smith had committed the offences but claimed it was “nothing to do with me”.
The inquiry heard that the Liberal Party held no formal inquiry into the claims against Smith, which were investigated by the police in 1969 but no prosecution was brought. Lord Steel’s position is that, as the police had investigated, the matter had been concluded.
But he had discussed the matter with Smith in 1979. What of any offences committed after that date – or indeed, between 1969 and then?
He said he had “assumed” that Smith had committed the offences, but took no further action because: “It was before he was an MP, before he was even a member of my party. It had nothing to do with me.”
Lord Steel also recommended Smith for a knighthood in 1988 and said he did not pass on any allegations about the sexual abuse of children because “I was not aware of any such allegations other than the matter referred to…which appeared to have been fully investigated”.
He said it had not occurred to him that children could still have been at risk from Smith – who went on to abuse other boys after the interview, according to victims.
I know people who were sexually abused as children. The harm done to them will remain with them for the rest of their lives.
Anybody who finds themselves in a position to help prevent such abuse has a duty to do whatever they can to end it, no matter what their personal feelings might be.
As Einstein said, “The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.”
Not only did Lord Steel do nothing – he actually recommended Smith for a knighthood, which Margaret Thatcher (herself no stranger to child abusers) approved.
I note that then-Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg responded to reports in 2014 that there had been 144 complaints against Smith and that attempts to prosecute him had been blocked, by saying: “My party, the Liberal Democrats, did not know about these actions.” Clearly, from Lord Steel’s words, that was not true.
As ever, it seems to be the case that those in positions of power and privilege are able to do what they like – to whoever they like – without any fear of legal punishment. As ever, it seems those who are poor and vulnerable have no option other than to endure the attentions of the privileged perverts.
In the United Kingdom; in 2019.
Can we have some proper justice now, please?