Former Liberal Party leader David Steel 'turned a blind eye' to child sex abuse

David Steel and Cyril Smith
David Steel and Cyril Smith Photo credit: Getty.

A former leader of the UK Liberal Democrat Party has resigned after being accused of "turning a blind eye" to child sex abuse in his party.

Lord David Steel will leave parliament following the damning verdict of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA).

He is accused of an "abdication of responsibility" after learning his fellow MP Cyril Smith was alleged to have abused children.

The inquiry found in 1979 Steel failed to pass on allegations against Smith to authorities despite believing them to be true because it was "past history".

In evidence to the inquiry in March 2019, Steel admitted he asked Smith about the claims he had abused young boys at a hotel in the 1960s.

He left the conversation "assuming" Smith was guilty but that it had nothing to do with him.

He then recommended Smith be knighted.

The IICSA found Steel guilty of "looking at Cyril Smith not through the lens of child protection but through the lens of political expediency". 

It said his "personal inaction was inexplicable".

Smith died in 2010 and was never charged. 

The IICSA found political parties, police and prosecutors ignored child victims and showed excessive defence of MPs fighting to clear their names.

"Institutions regularly put their own reputations or political interests before child protection," read the report. 

Hours after the report was published on Wednesday 81-year-old Steel said he understood other members of the Party wished him suspended and investigated again.

"I wish to avoid such turmoil in my party and to prevent further distress to my family. I have therefore informed the local party that my resignation is with immediate effect,"  he said in a statement. 

 

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