Police have acknowledged for the first time that the late politician Sir Cyril Smith sexually and physically abused young boys in the 1960s.
Smith, who was elected MP for Rochdale in 1972, was dogged by rumours of abuse throughout his career but charges were never brought.
But both Greater Manchester Police and the Crown Prosecution Service have now said if Smith had been accused today he would be charged and prosecuted.
Assistant Chief Constable Steve Heywood said: "We are now in a position to say that on three separate occasions, files were passed to first the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and then the CPS containing details of abuse committed by Smith, but on each occasion no prosecution was pursued.
"Having now reviewed those decisions, we believe that if the same evidence was presented to the CPS today there would have been a very realistic prospect that Smith would have been charged with a number of indecent assaults, and that the case would have been brought to trial.
"Clearly that is a bold statement to make but it is absolutely important for those victims who were abused by Smith that we publicly acknowledge the suffering they endured."
An investigation was carried out by Lancashire Police in the late 1960s into Smith's actions at the Cambridge House Hostel, a privately-run care home in Rochdale.
The investigating officer presented details of allegations made by eight youths to the DPP and concluded Smith had indecently assaulted young boys, but the DPP recommended no prosecution be pursued.
All the boys were either living at Cambridge House or were dependent on Smith for either employment, financial support or guardianship.
The allegations were set out in 80 pages of evidence that was supplied to the then DPP Sir Norman Skelhorn with a covering note dated 11 March 1970.
The only documentation of the decision making is a one page letter to the Chief Constable of Lancashire Constabulary.
It is dated 19 March, 1970, and reads: "I have considered your file and I observe that eight young men, whose ages range from nineteen to twenty-four years, allege that between 1961 and 1966 Smith subjected them to various forms of indecency and I also observe that Smith denies their allegations.
"Any charges of indecent assault founded on these allegations, as well as being somewhat stale, would be, in my view, completely without corroboration. Further, the characters of some of these young men would be likely to render their evidence suspect."
Nazir Afzal, chief crown prosecutor for CPS North West, said: "The decision made in 1970 would not be made by the CPS today.
"Any victims considering coming forward should not be dissuaded by the decisions of the past."
Smith, who died in 2010, served as the Liberal and later Liberal Democrat MP for Rochdale between 1972 and 1992.
A Liberal Democrat spokesperson said: "All accusations against Cyril Smith should have been investigated thoroughly with the authorities taking whatever action they thought necessary.
"Any new allegations being made should also be investigated by the police."