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Man charged with abusing boys at school linked to late MP Cyril Smith

Published 15/04/2016

Late Rochdale Liberal MP Cyril Smith was a governor at Knowl View school
Late Rochdale Liberal MP Cyril Smith was a governor at Knowl View school

A man has been charged with historical sex offences allegedly committed at a residential school for boys linked with late politician Cyril Smith.

David Higgins, 76, of HMP Rye Hill, is accused of sexually abusing two boys aged between 11 and 15 at the Knowl View school in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, between 1969 and 1971.

Higgins is due to appear at Bury Magistrates' Court via video-link on May 4 to face allegations of 18 counts of indecent assault and one count of attempted indecent assault.

An investigation was set up by Greater Manchester Police (GMP) following reports of both physical and sexual abuse said to have taken place at Knowl View from 1969 until it closed in 1995.

The launch of Operation Jaguar came in the wake of another probe by GMP into numerous complaints of sexual abuse made against Smith, who was a governor at Knowl View.

Smith, who died in 2010, was the subject of various sex abuse allegations and investigations over decades during his career, first as a prominent local councillor in Rochdale and later as the town's Liberal MP. He was never prosecuted.

In relation to Operation Jaguar, GMP said they had submitted 13 files to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) between April 2014 and April 2015 with multiple allegations involving 27 suspects and 16 alleged victims of both physical and sexual offences.

It is understood one of the 13 files submitted remains under review.

Assistant Chief Constable Robert Potts said: "Investigations into allegations of historical sexual and physical abuse are by their very nature extremely complex and protracted inquiries. These investigations are managed with the utmost sensitivity and files of evidence are put together by officers before being discussed and considered with the Crown Prosecution Service.

"We will always investigate any allegations of abuse, regardless of when they took place, and support from the police and other relevant organisations is provided to anyone that makes a report."

Higgins worked at the school at the time of the alleged offences, said the CPS.

Claire Lindley, Chief Crown Prosecutor for North West CPS, said: "We have carefully considered the evidence gathered by police in connection with their investigations into alleged abuse at Knowl View residential school for boys.

"Having completed our review in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors, we have concluded that there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest for David Higgins to face 18 charges of indecent assault and one charge of attempted indecent assault.

"With criminal proceedings now under way it is extremely important that there should be no reporting, commentary or sharing of information online which could in any way prejudice these proceedings."

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